Marketing & the Power of the “Familiar”

Don Draper, Mad Men Pilot Episode: “Smoke Gets in your Eyes” 1

No. 2. Marketing & the Power of the “Familiar”

Every generation has its own unique challenges or dangers they must someday face or overcome. At the time Don Draper was pitching to Lucky Strike, it was the developing worry about cigarettes being bad for your health and checking for “Reds” under your bed.

When Don was still selling tobacco, hazards like leaded paint and leaded petrol were still in common use. The evils of asbestos were yet to raise their ugly head and the Ozone Layer wasn’t even a blip on the horizon. Baby Boomers and Gen-X’ers would inherit all of the above.

But how do these hazards stack up against some of those faced by today’s Millennials and Gen Y’ers. Broadly speaking, “uncertainty” seems to be the common theme to a lot of what worries these groups.

Why is this?

Today’s technology has helped us understand our world – for better and for worse – in ways that few could relate to in a pre-internet world. We’re exposed to growing levels of awareness and connection to faraway people and places – and their problems.

From Brexit and the Trump election, to house prices in Melbourne – from the war in Syria to bleaching of the Great Barrier Reef – the uncertainty that seems to surround us can be a daunting, even frightening prospect for the future.

So where do we turn to, to help dispel these uncertainties? The answer lies in the warm, comforting bosom of the familiar.

Spot the Difference. 1985’s “The Goonies” 2 Vs. 2016’s “Stranger Things” 3.

The “Familiar”

The trend towards “the familiar” has seen a massive resurgence in 80s and 90s fashion and pop culture.

The kids of the 80s and 90s are now – more than ever – actively re-living their youth through a revival in fashion trends, TV shows and video games.

From Netflix’s “Stranger Things” to “Pokemon Go” and the resurrection of the Doc Marten shoe, people are turning backwards to the familiar.

Nostalgia breeds familiarity and the power of the familiar in an uncertain world cannot be ignored by any marketer worth their salt.

The appeal of safety and reassurance and distance from an uncertain “present” is a powerful emotive trigger that marketing professionals are tapping into.

We might not rely on re-assuring billboards to scream “You Are OK” anymore. These days, we look back in time to what made us feel that way before.

By Robert O’Reilly – Account Manager, TPF Think

[1] Mad Men, “Smoke Gets in Your Eyes”, Santa Monica CA, Lionsgate, 2007.
[2] “The Goonies”, Burbank, CA, Warner Bros, 1985.
[3] “Stranger Things”, Jackson, GA, Netflix Studios, 2016.

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