Blockbuster’s DVD Campaign: A Nostalgic Marketing Masterstroke

In the era of streaming giants, one name still evokes a sense of nostalgia and fond memories: Blockbuster. The iconic video rental chain, while largely confined to history books, continues to maintain a single location in Bend, Oregon.

In episode 4 of Brands & Campaigns, host Camden Bernatz talked to AO Baker, creative director at Atlantic New York Advertising Agency, who worked on Blockbuster’s “We Still Have DVDs” Campaign as a response to Netflix’s end to their DVD-by-mail service. In episode 5, Camden is joined by Relic Creative Director Brandon Osmond to break down the campaign.

What is Blockbuster’s “We Still Have DVDs” Campaign?

The “We Still Have DVDs” campaign was a witty and self-aware response to Netflix’s decision to discontinue its DVD-by-mail service. By acknowledging its outdated status and poking fun at its limited selection compared to streaming platforms, Blockbuster endeared itself to audiences. The campaign highlighted the store’s unique selling proposition: DVDs that are unavailable on streaming platforms. It also used humor and played on the nostalgia associated with Blockbuster, reminding people of the days when renting DVDs was a beloved weekend ritual. The crucial aspect of the campaign was creating awareness and driving website traffic for nostalgic merchandise purchases — the actual way the store stays in business.

Let’s break down some pieces of this clever marketing campaign that captured the hearts of audiences and sparked conversations online.

Targeting the Hearts of Nostalgia Seekers

Blockbuster’s target audience was primarily people who grew up with and cherished the Blockbuster experience. They embraced the nostalgia of DVD rentals, reminding us of a simpler time when Friday nights were synonymous with a trip to the video store.

Don’t you remember?

You’d walk in and smell the popcorn and browse the shelves looking for the right movie for your mood. It’s nice to find the movies that aren’t streaming. Most likely you’d bump into someone you knew. It’s the human connection that Blockbuster offered, which is lacking in streaming services like Netflix. This human element is a crucial part of the Blockbuster brand, and it was important to maintain this in the campaign.

Resonating with Self-Deprecating Charm

Blockbuster’s advertisements embraced self-deprecating humor, acknowledging the brand’s outdated status and poking fun at it. This approach resonated with audiences who appreciated the brand’s honesty and willingness to laugh at itself. Scenes played out Blockbuster employees struggling to keep up with the latest technological advancements or customers encountering outdated equipment. These humorous touches added a lighthearted tone to the campaign and made the advertisements more entertaining.

“If people don’t feel anything, nothing is going to work,” said AO Baker “I don’t care how clever the copy is or how good the art looks or none of that matters if it doesn’t connect emotionally to the person on the other end of that ad.”

The advertisements successfully forged emotional connections with viewers by reminding them of the positive experiences associated with Blockbuster. By tapping into these emotions, the campaign made the advertisements more impactful and memorable.

A Visual Symphony of Imagery

The EKR team analyzed the creative imagery of the campaign. From the deliberate use of contrasting colors to the integration of the brand’s logo within the store’s interior design. It’s this meticulous attention to visual storytelling that has contributed to the campaign’s triumph.

The advertisements featured imagery that evoked nostalgia for the era when Blockbuster was a dominant force in the movie rental industry. This included shots of the iconic Blockbuster store interiors, complete with their distinctive blue and yellow color scheme, and shelves stocked with VHS and DVD cases.

Execution on the Digital Frontier for a Successful Legacy

With over 80,000 followers on Instagram, Blockbuster mainly utilized their current community and posted the creative there. By coordinating all advertising efforts on Friday, September 29, 2023, this campaign received attention from the media. This social media engagement helped to amplify the campaign’s reach and impact. It also resulted in an uptick in merchandise sales, further solidifying Blockbuster’s status as a pop culture icon.

Blockbuster’s “We Still Have DVDs” campaign is an example of how brands can leverage self-awareness, humor, and nostalgia to connect with audiences in a meaningful way. By acknowledging its limitations and embracing its unique strengths, Blockbuster crafted a campaign that resonated with people and generated positive publicity.

For those interested in learning more about this campaign and other clever marketing strategies, listen to the Brands & Campaigns podcast.

If you need marketing assistance, contact EKR.

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