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5 essential marketing lessons from classic 80s movies

80s movies are full of crucial life lessons. Examples: The mullet was not (and never will be) a good look for anyone. Every situation can be made better by an impromptu dance number. And if you want to learn basic karate moves, just wax your car, sand a deck and paint a fence.

And believe it or not, hidden within these films are several essential lessons for modern marketers. Here, we’ve gathered timeless tidbits from some of the most popular movies of the decade that will help you up your email marketing game, 80s-style.



National Lampoon’s Vacation (1983): Things won’t always go according to plan

If there’s anything to be learned from the Griswold family, it’s that even the best-laid plans can go horribly awry. In "National Lampoon’s Vacation," what was intended to be an innocent family trip to Wally World – “America’s Favorite Family Fun Park” – quickly unravels into a disastrous series of events: a car crash, extortion by hotel clerks, an unfortunate fate for a dog named Dinky and an eventual standoff with the LAPD SWAT team.

Hopefully you’ve never had an email marketing plan go quite that badly, but there’s a good chance that at some point, what you thought was a great idea didn’t turn out to be the triumph you had hoped for. But that’s the great thing about marketing: Every time you make a misstep, it becomes an opportunity to learn more about your audience, their needs and how you can do better next time. So test, test, test – you never know what might end up being your most successful strategy yet!


The Goonies (1985): Never ask for more than you actually need

One of the biggest takeaways from "The Goonies"? Greed will get you nowhere. Chunk, when he gets a little overzealous about ice cream, finds himself stuck with a dead body. The Fratellis, when they decide to take more than their fair share of One Eyed Willy’s treasure, end up setting off a boobytrap and landing themselves in police custody.

When using a signup form to grow your email list, it’s tempting to ask for a lot from your customers. But asking for too much information can cause them to leave your site out of frustration – or worse, lose trust in your brand. So be sure to only request the customer data you genuinely need. You’ll earn the right to learn more about your subscribers as your relationship grows stronger. 


The Empire Strikes Back (1980): Be confident in what makes your brand great

One of the most famous exchanges in "Star Wars: Episode V" occurs between Princess Leia and Han Solo as Han is dragged away by Stormtroopers into a machine that literally freezes people. “I love you,” Leia tells him. “I know,” he returns in classic Han Solo style.

For those unfamiliar with the movie, Han (aka young Harrison Ford) is the ultimate cool guy. Maybe he’s a little nuts, maybe he’s a little cocky, but he’s always completely sure of himself – and it works. So when you present your brand to the world, think Han Solo: Be unashamed of who you are and confident (not cocky) about what makes your brand rise above the competition. Find your brand voice and stick with it. If you know you’re the best there is, your subscribers will think so, too!


Back to the Future (1985): Technology is your friend

Despite a few mishaps along the way (including accidentally attracting the romantic interest of his mother… yikes), Marty McFly’s DeLorean-powered time travel allows him to change his parents’ lives for the better. After making a few changes to the past, Marty helps his father George McFly transform from a downtrodden office worker to a self-confident, successful sci-fi author.

Just like in "Back to the Future," technology is the email marketer’s best friend. And you don’t need Doc Brown’s inventions to craft high-tech emails – modern tools like automation and dynamic content will allow you to transform your Plain Jane newsletter into an exciting, hyper-personalized message that converts (sadly, we’re still working on our flux capacitor integration).


Ferris Bueller’s Day Off (1986): Speaking to an unengaged audience will get you nowhere

In one of the most memorable scenes from "Ferris Bueller’s Day Off," an Economics teacher (Ben Stein) fruitlessly calls out a single name again and again while taking attendance: “...Bueller? ...Bueller? ...Bueller?"

Clearly, Stein’s character gets nowhere by attempting to engage – over and over again, and in the exact same way – someone who simply isn’t listening. If your emails are falling on deaf ears, consider deploying a strategic reengagement campaign. That way, you’ll be able to figure out exactly how to bring your inactive recipients back into the fold – or, if all else fails, remove them from your list for good.