Future Pharma 2020

September 14 - 15, 2020

Boston Marriott Long Wharf, Boston, MA

Here's How Business Can Learn From 80s Pop Culture

Brought to you by WBR Insights

The 1980s were a polarizing time when it comes to pop culture. Much of the music was arguably horrific, and the fashion similarly divisive.

However, one element of 80s pop culture which is almost universally remembered fondly - at least by those of us who were young children or adolescents during the decade - can be found in Hollywood's output of the time. Family favorites such as The Goonies, ET, Flight of the Navigator, or The Karate Kid are still regularly found on television and streaming services. Similarly, teen coming-of-age movies including The Lost Boys, Stand By Me, Ferris Bueller's Day Off, The Breakfast Club, and more are still discussed fondly in film-loving circles.

At this juncture, you may be asking yourself why we're discussing 80s movies in the content section of a Future Pharma conference. Well, whether you work in the pharmaceutical industry or any other field, these classic films still contain important lessons which can be applied to modern business.

#1 ET - "Be Good"

Steven Spielberg's heart-warming tale of a young boy named Elliot who befriends a stranded extraterrestrial and tries to protect it from nefarious government agencies still resonates well with audiences today.

At the conclusion of the movie, ET tells the young female character (played by then child star Drew Barrymore) to "be good."

The line, "be good," can be applied to the way a company should dedicate itself to social responsibility. Whether this is applied to how your company treats its staff, how it does its part to protect the environment, or how it works with the community around its locations to make the area a better place to live and work for all, organizations which strive to "be good" will see happier employees and more support from outside their walls - which can only "be good" for the promotion of the brand.

#2 Ferris Bueller's Day Off - "Life moves pretty fast. If you don't stop to look around once in a while, you could miss it."

John Hughes made many teen films during the 80s, but few are as fondly remembered as his tale of Ferris Bueller, a streetwise kid who decides to make the most of his final authorized sick day from school.

The line "Life moves pretty fast. If you don't stop to look around once in a while, you could miss it," comes up a couple of times during the movie, and it can teach businesses an important lesson about how to manage their work/life balance.

Recent research by the American Institute of Stress has discovered the following worrying trends:

  • 80% of workers feel stress on the job, nearly half say they need help in learning how to manage stress and 42% say their co-workers need such help
  • 25% have felt like screaming or shouting because of job stress, 10% are concerned about an individual at work they fear could become violent
  • 14% of respondents have felt like striking a co-worker in the past year, but didn't
  • 9% are aware of an assault or violent act in their workplace, and 18% have experienced some sort of threat or verbal intimidation in the past year

With so many workers feeling their workload getting on top of them, the need to allow your teams ample time to relax and enjoy their lives is of paramount importance. Burnt out employees will produce sub-par work and take more time off sick - hurting your company at all levels.

#3 The Breakfast Club - "We're all pretty bizarre. Some of us are just better at hiding it, that's all."

Another John Hughes classic, this coming-of-age tale of six mismatched students sharing a Saturday detention is one of the defining movies of the 1980s.

The moral of the tale is that these seemingly incompatible people find that they are all unique and that their differences should be celebrated and encouraged instead of denigrated and used as ammunition to attack one another.

Businesses can embrace this philosophy by making sure to have diverse teams, where each member brings something different to the table. Whether that diversity is across lines of ethnicity, religion, gender, or sexuality, everyone's culture and past empower them to consider angles others may not and come up with their own unique ideas.

Needless to say, this is especially powerful in marketing, where diverse teams can work together to create promotional material which speaks to all people.

Final Thoughts

There are three great examples of how 80s pop culture can be used to make modern business work better and more ethically than ever before. Whether in pharmaceutical marketing or elsewhere, these lessons can help make your industry stronger.


You can hear the author of What 80s Pop Culture Teaches Us About Today's Workplace, Chris Clews, speak at Future Pharma 2019, taking place this September at the Boston Marriott Long Wharf, MA.

Download the agenda today for more information and insights.