In collaboration with Netflix’s popular series Stranger Things, Coca-Cola used a nostalgia marketing-driven video spot to restore New Coke, a sweeter version of the beverage launched in 1985 that was pulled when met with customer backlash. As part of the branded partnership, New Coke will make cameos throughout various episodes of Stranger Things, premiering July 3.
The video spot, “Coca-Cola First Love,” set in 1985 in Hawkins, Indiana (where the Netflix show takes place), stars actors from the show experiencing milestones like a first kiss or date, and a trip to the movies where an electricity outage spooks the audience.
“In a world of shifting media consumption, we continue to challenge ourselves to find creative and meaningful ways to participate in non-advertising platforms like Netflix to engage with the millions of fans who subscribe to streaming content services,” said Geoff Cottrill, senior vice president of strategic marketing, Coca-Cola North America.
Coca-Cola’s move to combine nostalgia marketing and popular culture reflects a larger trend of brands pulling on consumers’ heartstrings to encourage brand loyalty. Good memories and vintage products make new products feel comfortable. Coca-Cola also uses its old campaigns as part of its nostalgia-driven strategy. In the company’s Super Bowl 52 ad, “The Wonder of Us,” it celebrated diversity via an emotional narrative and appeared to be a remake of the successful “Hilltop” ad the company ran in 1971, which was also featured in the final scene of Mad Men.
A study by Nielsen in which ads were grouped into three categories according to score from a metric based on people’s electroencephalogram activity (EEG1) found that ads with the best emotional intelligence response generated a 23 percent lift in sales volume.
Stuart Kronauge, president of Coca-Cola North America’s business unit noted, “When we heard that Season 3 would be set in the summer of 1985 and they wanted to integrate New Coke, we knew we had an opportunity to revisit that time period in a fun and unexpected way that would also allow us to be part of one of this year’s most anticipated pop culture moments.”
Coca-Cola is sprinkling the campaign with a touch of experiential marketing. Starting May 23, fans can visit upside-down Stranger Things-inspired vending machines that will pop up in select cities and dispense free cans of New Coke for a limited time. A limited number of New Coke cans will be shoppable online as part of a bundle featuring a limited-edition, Stranger Things glass bottle.
Coca-Cola is one among many major brands known for strengthening campaign messages with nostalgia. In 2018, Google used Home Alone footage and characters in a campaign that introduced its virtual assistant. ABC romanticized the past for a Roseanne-inspired subway car. Coca-Cola’s rival Pepsi also rolled out a similar approach to nostalgia marketing in 2016 when it resurrected a discontinued drink from the ’90s, Crystal Pepsi.