Brand in the Spotlight: Vacation Sunscreen by Poolside FM

When you think of the 80s, what springs to mind?

Perhaps it’s cellphones the size of cinderblocks or a jam-packed collection of cassettes. Maybe even rollerskating. How about fuschia blush, electric blue eyeshadow, and chunky neon accessories? Oh, and who can forget legwarmers and V-cut swimsuits for that Miami-beach look – packed alongside a trusty bottle of Poolside Fm’s ‘Vacation Sunscreen’.

You’d be forgiven for missing the last one.

But with marketing and brand presence as strong as sunscreen entrepreneur Marty Bell’s, it’s easy to imagine Brooke Sheilds or Daryl Hannah having regularly used this product back in the day. And as a lover of all things retro, this most excellent brand makes me wish that telephone booth time machines were real.

In this blog, I’ll be looking at Vacation’s role in the recent retro-marketing boom, while touching on some of the things that made it one of the most iconic 80s sunscreen brands… to come out in 2021.

So, what is Vacation by Poolside FM, anyway?

Unsurprisingly, Vacation is a collection of sunscreen products – namely two board-certified dermatologist-approved SPFs, an oil, a face mist, and a fragrance. Their modus operandi is crafted with layers of nostalgia, with a view of creating the ‘world’s best-smelling sunscreen’ that invokes memories of beach holidays in days gone by.

It’s a tall order at the best of times, especially for a new brand trying to find its footing in one of the most saturated markets around. According to insights, total sales of sun care products accounted for 3% to 7% of the global skincare market share in 2022 – meaning it is more important than ever to make a splash with your marketing.

As such, you’d expect their founder, Marty Bell, to be a tried and true skincare connoisseur. In reality, he’s the self-titled ‘executive pool boy’ behind viral internet radio station ‘Poolside FM’, which later became Poolsuite. 

The retro internet radio station – created at the height of the pandemic in a bid to deliver ‘an infinity pool of summer sounds 24/7’ is a similar masterclass in nostalgia marketing.

It boots up with the scroll-fast, clunky typeface that draws inspiration directly from the early-era Macintosh computers. ‘LOADING DAIQUIRI.EXE’ flashes brightly before landing on the homepage, with icons leading to new additions to the Poolsuite family.

A pixel tube of sunscreen leads to ‘Vacation’.

And in there lies the promised land.

A money-making throwback: the rise of retro-marketing

Retro-marketing isn’t a new thing by any means.

Much like fashion, advertising trends are cyclical, drawing inspiration from bygone eras in a bid to make modern offerings more attractive. Some retro-marketing exercises involve creating a whole brand identity from scratch that is entirely based on a certain era, much like Vacation by Poolside FM, or could be as simple as a standalone campaign or collection.

Kim Kardashian has been at it lately. As has Gucci, under the artistic direction of Alessandro Michelle. 

Through this lens, a number of iconic stylings from across the 20th Century have already been imagined, such as Art Deco, 50s diner interiors, festival fashion from the 60s, mid-century furnishings, and inspiration for motors taken directly from the 1960s.

Our love for 1980s-fueled nostalgia hasn’t been softened by pop culture, either. Stranger Things has resurrected Kate Bush to the top of the charts, similarly with the aesthetics of the era thanks to brand tie-ins, with partnerships forged in retro-marketing heaven.

How Vacation markets “the sunniest place on the internet”

Vacation’s strapline promises leisure and pleasure. Don’t mind if I do.

While it doesn’t go into much detail as to ‘how’ a leisure-enhancing sunscreen works, every inch of content and copy on this site screams ‘experiential’. It takes a leaf out of old-school advertising books, talking directly to the reader and their lifestyle – rather than the product itself.

One example of their ad copy reads: “Back-gammon, swim-up bars, cucumber facials. You’ve spent a long week relaxing. You deserve another week off.”

In a modern market where skincare products have to rely on name-dropping active ingredients, proven studies, and celebrity endorsements, this is a seriously refreshing break.

It’s all about crafting that emotional and experiential hook, something that had previously worked well with Poolsuite’s curation of synthy, sun-dappled sound.

But that’s not to say every inch of the site is a complete rehash. To appeal to modern audiences, there’s a certain self-awareness that allows for tongue-in-cheek punchlines, such as: ‘Contains the Vacation® Brand “Grand Cru ‘86” scent inspired by the celebratory magnetism and charisma of the coveted libation.”

It’s truly ridiculous. And it knows it.

Get the Miami Look

But to complement this clever copy, you need the visuals to match.

Every inch of Vacation’s brand presence is accompanied by incredible photography and design. It not only emulates the 80s but seems to have come organically from the era, itself, no mean feat for a premise dreamt up between Marty Bell and collaborators Lach Hall and Dakota Green.

Even the typography is considered, with ‘Vacation’ penned with a combination of hand-drawn elements inspired by the popular ‘Rage Italic’ font. The original came out in 1984 (think Dirty Dancing) – but Poolsuite’s marketing has added its own touch to create what feels like a relic of a time that’s in a league of its own.

Through an expert blend of copy, visuals, and clear love for the era that inspired it all, Vacation has crafted an experience for their audience that almost makes you forget they are simply shilling sunscreen.

A masterclass in immersive marketing

Remember me talking about the whole ‘cheeky’ aspect of marketing for us modern folk?

Well, Vacation did it in spades.

In the build-up to pre-launch last year, the brand implemented a campaign that drew inspo from the business-slick vibes of the mid-eighties, allowing website visitors to claim a unique job title within the company – complete with digital business cards.

According to Poolside FM, over 10,000 visitors got involved with the campaign on the first day alone, enjoying a creative (and bogus) job as well as a free tube of sunscreen, of course.

Sorry gang. I’m retiring from content, and starting a new business as a ‘Senior Lobby Fern Sunlight Analyst’.

Want more marketing magic? We can help

If our insights into the wonderful world of marketing have got those wheels turning, why not can speak to the experts at Embryo?

Our digital marketing company in Manchester is equipped with the skills and knowledge needed to produce content that sells and ranks.

Contact us now to find out how we can help you. No time machine is needed.



Latest News & Blogs