If you’ve heard of Netflix’s Stranger Things, but have never watched it, you might be surprised by the amount of attention the show is getting. Even if the premise were as unique as it can get in today’s show makers’ world, the show would certainly not be where it is today – quite a social phenomenon – without the creative marketing tactics promoting it.
Having in mind that you learn something new every day, here are 3 marketing lessons we’ve picked up from Stranger Things.
1) Keep it nostalgic
Rule #1 of marketing – make an emotional connection between the buyer and the seller.
Such a connection leads to purchasing. The stronger the connection, the bigger the number and frequency of sales. Even if you’re not aware of it, you still buy your toilet paper because you like the ducklings that waddle over it in a quest to get to their mother. So yeah, we are all drama queens and some things have no problem pushing the right buttons.
One might argue that Stranger Things knows exactly how to do that. It uses nostalgia as their secret weapon.
If you’ve watched the show, you know that it’s set in the ‘80s. If you haven’t, what might pique your interest is the fact that everything from the time when we were young is authentic in the show. The phones, the hair, the clothes, the houses, the cars, the décor, the game of Dungeons & Dragons – it’s not a parody, IT IS THE ‘80s.
The show itself could be described as “The Goonies meets E.T. with a touch of Goosebumps”, but it also gives lots of nods to Stand by Me, Poltergeist and Close Encounters of the Third Kind. These are the movies and shows all of us Millennials have not only watched as kids, but wholeheartedly consumed. Add to that the authentic ‘80s music soundtrack and obligatory product placement with Eggo Waffles and you have a person being transported back to their youth.
On our way to become the largest part of workforce on the global level, Millennials are therefore obviously the right age group to target by a large number of sellers. This generation has had the opportunity to experience the technological revolution in full having witnessed everything from the electronic device evolution, through the rise of social media to virtual reality becoming the standard part of our everyday lives. However, these changes have not only advanced our consumer needs, but have also made us reminisce about the things that used to be. As a generation that has had the access to the Internet pretty much all their lives, pop culture artifacts from other eras makes them nostalgic about these things as though we have experienced them ourselves.
Therein lies the reason for nostalgia marketing being such an effective tool when it comes to Millennials – add a dose of nostalgia to a marketing campaign and people will purchase your product.
2) Get interactive
Rule #2 of marketing – keep your audience interested.
Offer people something new, something they haven’t already seen or experienced. That way, you are making them thinking and talking about whatever it is you are advertising.
Stranger Things have got a handle on things there:
- Stranger Things partnered up with the livestreaming site Twitch to give a four-hour live broadcast and ending with 8 minutes of the first Stranger Things episode. Fans were able to explore the first floor of the infamous house in an interactive experience where the fans could vote on what happened next.
- A few weeks after the show was released on Netflix, the company published a 360° virtual reality video on YouTube allowing viewers to explore the first floor of the Byers home.
- Stranger Things Lightbulb Message Maker gives fans the chance to customize their own lightbulb messages, while with a text creator you can put a piece of text into a Stranger Things font.
- Ad agency Doner L.A. created a 1-800 number for the show. It served as a real corporate number with a hold feature, menu directions and automated responses designed to allow the callers to report power outages or suspicious activity in Hawkins.
- Before releasing the second season of the show, the countdown page hid an Easter egg – when you clicked on it, it flipped your screen into “Upside Down” mode, with eerie vines and music. To make you feel more like you stepped into Hawkins, Indiana, your cursor is now a flickering flashlight and a Demogorgon emerges every few seconds.
- For Halloween Netflix collaborated with Lyft to give the fans a memorable ride. For two days (October 26th and 27th), Lyft users were able to switch their app into Stranger Things mode turning the cars on the screen into trucker hats, string lights waffles and the show’s logo. Also, on October 27th and 28th users in certain cities rode in vehicles with malfunctioning seats, warped ceiling, flickering lights, an acting driver and an Eggo waffle.
- In order to promote the second season of the show, Netflix released Stranger Things: The Game, a free Android and iOS app using events from the show and similar characters and settings. It is not just another tie-in game, but a fully-fledged one that lasts around 10 hours and retains the retro aesthetics of the ‘80s giving the feel of playing the Nintendo, bringing players back into their childhood.
- Stranger Things also found its place on Spotify as the music streaming website had this whole thing with matching users to the show’s characters. The musical tastes of the 13 lead characters have been compared with the fans’ to bring them into the Upside Down world.
What Stranger Things has shown us is that interactive ads are much more engaging than the traditional ones. The reason for this is that interactive content makes consumers participate and therefore creates engagement, which is the ultimate goal of any brand or advertisement.
3) Get the fans talking
Rule #3 of marketing – get people invested.
Make your fans, readers, Social Media followers your own spokespeople. Let them tell your story, because they will know whom to pitch, how and when.
By the same logic, the marketing hype leading up to Stranger Things was small, but quite effective – which is unusual these days. However, what it lacked in boastful exposure, it made up for in high quality content, creating avid advertisers from their own fans. In effect, Stranger Things made such a good impression on its fans that they as consumers sold it to other consumers.
Even celebrities, such as Stephen King sang the show’s praises and not just because his work is the obvious influence.
As the fans took to Social Media to proclame their love for the show, Stranger Things garnered the second highest social engagement of any new show in 2016 (12.99 million) , as well as the largest fan growth of any freshman series (4.35 million). As word spread, so did viewership: Season 1 of the series was watched in 190 countries around the world, including Antarctica.
By the same token, season 2 garnered similar enthusiasm: In the 24 hours following its release, the show got 670,416 unique mentions across all the big Social Media platforms and blogs, according to audience insight firm Fizziology. That’s up nearly 3,800% from the number of mentions in the 24 hours following the release of season 1. It is also more mentions that received by top shows like Walking Dead, Empire, Big Bang Theory and This Is Us received in the 24 hours following their most recent season premieres, though not more that the 1.5 million garnered by Game of Thrones.
Having in mind that Netflix doesn’t release viewing data, social buzz is a good indicator of the show’s popularity as well as the number of viewers. And a show that is as popular on Social Media as Stranger Things is, is more likely to compel non-subscribers to buy Netflix and tune in not only to watch that one show, but whatever else Netflix has to offer. And that is why word-of-mouth marketing is still the king!
As Stranger Things moves onto new seasons, Netflix continues to encourage marketers to think outside the box. By turning simple ideas such as those presented here (use nostalgia, be interactive and get people talking about you) into well-thought out campaigns, the show has managed to set the standard for the way marketing should be done in the future.