Hearts In Atlantis is a wonderful drama that, when you finish watching it you will likely say “Wait, that was based on a Stephen King book?” It was, and it features a wonderful performance by the always brilliant Anthony Hopkins. Hopkins plays Ted Brautigan, a man with psychic powers who is being chased by a governmental group that wants to use Ted’s powers. Ted frequently moves to stay one step ahead of the government or ‘low men’ as he calls them.
But as the movie opens, we are in the present day and the studio of Bobby Garfield. Bobby has just received a package from the attorney of his childhood friend ‘Sully’ Sullivan. Bobby, Sully and Carol Gerber were childhood friends, and when they were children, Sully had once promised Bobby that he would leave Bobby his baseball glove in his will. Bobby opens the package to find that baseball glove inside. He soon learns that Sully was killed in a car accident, and travels back to his hometown to attend the funeral. While there, he meets with Sully’s attorney, and mentions that he hadn’t seen Carol yet, and that he was very much looking forward to seeing her during his trip. The attorney then informs Bobby that Carol had actually died a few years earlier. Shocked, Bobby returns to his old childhood home, and the majority of the movie is shown as Bobby remembering what his life was like one summer with Sully and Carol, and then later, when Ted Brautigan came into their lives.
One of the over-arching themes of the movie is the magic of being a child during the summer. So many of us seem to have that one magical summer of our youth where we made special friends, had our ‘summer love’ or just enjoyed being a carefree child enjoying a magical time in our lives. The movie does a great job of making us nostalgic for the summers of our youth. I’ll talk about this more in a minute. When Ted arrives on the scene, he is living next door to Bobby and his mom. Ted soon offers to pay Bobby $1 a week to read the newspaper to him, claiming his eyesight is failing him. Bobby shrewdly suspects that there’s more to the offer, and asks Ted to tell him what the REAL job is. Ted then explains that what he really wants Bobby to do is keep an eye out around town for the government group or ‘low men’ that are chasing him. One of Ted’s psychic abilities includes being able to ‘sense’ when his pursuers are closing in on him. Ted can also read minds, and when Bobby’s mom suddenly arrives home and yells for him, Bobby flinches, but Ted quickly grabs his hand and tells him “She can’t tell what you are thinking. You think she can, and that’s her power over you.”
All three of the childhood friends grow a quick affection for Ted, especially Bobby. Bobby’s father died when he was very young, and one of the subplots of the movie is Bobby recalling his love of his father. And in this scene, we find out that Bobby’s father and Ted were once at the same football game sharing another love, that of former Chicago Bears great Bronco Nagurski:
Nostalgia in marketing is very powerful, and I think it’s even more impactful in volatile times like this when we want to return to a time when things were more…pleasant. More peaceful, more normal. Nostalgia often involves us returning to our youth, and note that Ted made his story far more interesting to Bobby by involving his dad in the telling of the story.
Whenever I talk about creating content that builds awareness, I mention that you (as the content creator) need to remember that you are trying to connect with an audience that doesn’t know who you are. So you create content that focuses on what’s important and relevant to the customer. In the above scene, what if Ted had told Bobby a story about “Jim Thorpe, the greatest football player that ever lived.” Bobby’s first reaction might have been “Well he wasn’t as good as Bronco Nagurski, my dad LOVED Bronco Nagurski!” Bobby likely doesn’t know who Thorpe was, but he knows who Bronco Nagurski was, cause his dad loved him. Ted reaches Bobby by telling a story about a football player that his dad loved.
Nostalgia in marketing can be very powerful. Anytime you can tie your marketing messages to something else that your customer loves and remembers fondly, it’s a good thing. And if you haven’t, do check out Hearts In Atlantis, a wonderful movie. This quote from Ted may tell you where the movie gets it title from “Sometimes when you’re young, you have moments of such happiness, you think you’re living in someplace magical, like Atlantis must have been?”