4 marketing lessons from ‘Stranger Things’

The Netflix hit’s second season becomes available Oct. 27, and fan excitement has been boosted by robust campaign messages and partnerships. Here’s what communicators can take away.

The wait is nearly over: On Friday, fans of “Strangers Things” can journey to the Upside Down.

Netflix has used social media to boost viewers’ excitement about the next installment of its popular series:

Netflix has undertaken multiple efforts to make sure audiences tune in to the show’s newest episodes.

Here are four lessons marketing pros can take from the clever efforts to promote “Stranger Things”:

1. Make it interactive.

Netflix partnered with Lyft to promote the “Stranger Things” second season, and the result is a strange—perhaps even scary—ride.

The Verge reported:

On Thursday, October 26th and Friday, October 27th, users nationwide will be able to opt into the mode from 6AM to 6PM, which will change Lyft’s map so that cars are represented by waffles, Christmas lights, trucker hats, and the Stranger Things logo. Then on October 27th and 28th, riders in Los Angeles and Philadelphia will be able to take a Stranger Things-themed ride from 4PM to 9PM. According to Deadline, it will feature “flickering lights, radio static, malfunctioning seats, a driver that vomits a slug in front of you, a pulsating ceiling, and an Eggo reward at the end.”

The vomited slug must be a first in the marketing world.

In any case, the move is a win for both sides: As Netflix enjoys increased mentions, Lyft reaps more ride requests from fans looking to experience a piece of the Upside Down—the dank parallel dimension featured in the season one finale.

By making marketing stunts interactive, consumers can take part in the action and are more likely to share their experiences with others online and offline.

2. Give consumers something extra.

Along with teaser trailers and marketing partnerships, Netflix offered posters and a game for fans to download:

You don’t have to hand out swag or invest in an app to give back to your customers, however,

Netflix focused its other marketing efforts on offering fans something extra, including an interactive 800 number.

Adweek reported:

Billboards and other out-of-home work from creative shop Doner L.A. touting Hawkins Power and Light have popped up in Los Angeles and New York. The tagline, “Flipping the Switch for a Brighter Tomorrow,” is perfect for the bland yet sinister corporation.

The campaign features a working 1-800 number that functions much like a regular corporate 1-800 number—soothing on-hold music, menu directions to follow, automated responses—until there’s a crackling sound similar to something you might hear in Stranger Things.

ScreenRant reported:

The number functions like a regular corporate one, with menu directions to follow after Dr. Owens’ message and automated responses. On the main menu you are given the options to listen to the company’s mission, report outages or suspicious activities, listen to customers’ testimonials, and more. Hawkins Power and Light is a subsidiary of Hawkins Lab – the place where the MKUltra experiments took place and where Eleven was being subjected to tests.

Netflix also added an interactive element to the show’s page for members to enjoy.

Variety reported:

When viewers navigate to the “Stranger Things” page on Netflix, it shows all the typical features of Netflix’s navigation — a quick summary of the show, thumbs-up and thumbs-down, and an Add to My List feature, all alongside a screencap from the first episode of the first season that shows Will Byers peering into a shed. Look over to the right, however, and a floating, glowing red orb can be seen. Click on the orb, and the page will flip upside down.

The Upside Down version of Netflix looks similar to the Upside Down of the show, with creepy sound effects, unappealing roots sprawling across the screen, and the cursor taking on a flashlight appearance. The flashlight flickers occasionally and after a few seconds pass, the Demagorgon jumps out accompanied by its screeching roar.

Whether you’re creating a clever billboard or crafting your weekly newsletter, think of your customers and what they’d like to receive. The more “extras” you can give consumers, the greater the likelihood of making your customers happy and creating brand loyalists.

3. Take advantage of lucky moments.

Just as Coca-Cola lucked out by being featured in Don Draper’s advertising vision in the “Mad Men” series finale, Kellogg has benefited from a “Stranger Things” character’s penchant for its waffles.

AdAge reported:

For those who haven’t watched the mysterious drama, set in 1980s small-town Indiana, the main thing to know about Eggo’s connection is that a key character eats the frozen waffles. The Kellogg Co. brand “absolutely did not know” about the product placement in the show’s first season, says Trinh Le, marketing director, Kellogg’s frozen breakfast. “Netflix doesn’t offer any paid placements,” Le says of the product’s appearances in the series.

Soon enough fans noticed and so did the brand. Netflix even reached out to Eggo about having one of the brand’s 1980s “L’Eggo my Eggo” ads appear in the Super Bowl commercial that teased the show’s second season. Eggo happily obliged.

Though the appearance was serendipitous, Kellogg is taking full advantage of it.

AdAge reported:

Leading up to the second season of the popular Netflix series there’s an Eggo-branded “Stranger Things” spoiler blocker, recipes tied to each of the upcoming nine episodes, do-it-yourself costume pieces made with Eggo boxes, an Eggo waffle truck for the the “Stranger Things” premiere and “Stranger Things” toasters and Eggo waffles are making their way to influencers.

The company’s Twitter profile is also littered with tweets promoting its appearance in the show, along with its marketing partnership with Netflix:

Marketers, pay attention to what people say about you, and respond quickly. You might not be featured in a hit series, but a mention from a social media influencer might give your organization a welcome boost.

4. Embrace hot trends.

Target took taken advantage of its wide selection of merchandise from the show—and love of the ’80s—through a special “Stranger Things” landing page.

ScreenRant reported:

Now available on the Target website is an entire page dedicated to Stranger Things products, in addition to ’80s-themed merch. Headlining the page is the season 1 Blu-ray collection with the tagline “Ready for a day to disappear?” An ugly Christmas sweater is also front and center, just above the toys section that features action figures Funko Pop! collectibles. Eleven (Millie Bobby Brown) gets her own section with a mixed bag of toys, games, and clothes. Even Barb (Shannon Purser) gets a dedicated “What About Barb?” section.

The move seems to be working, as some toys related to the series are already sold out. Brand managers in the United Kingdom are also jumping on the “Stranger Things” bandwagon.

On Oct. 19, Campaign reported:

Topshop will transform its flagship store from tomorrow to be themed around the Stranger Things world, which features supernatural events unfolding in 1980s Indiana.

Customers will be invited to immerse themselves in some of the show’s most memorable moments. Fans can experience settings including the “Upside Down”, Hawkin’s Lab, the Arcade, and Will’s Castle Byers Den.

The public can also enter a special draw to win an invite to the cinema screening. Shannon Purser, who played Barb in Stranger Things, will host the event.

Spotify went for a simpler approach, crafting playlists for each “Stranger Things” character:

You don’t have to sell “Stranger Things” merchandise or hire a graphic designer to take advantage of the excitement fueling the release of the series’ second season, either.

Netimperitive.com shared a Mailjet survey, which revealed that using the show in your content and marketing messages can attract consumers’ attention:

In the lead up to the hotly-anticipated season two launch of ‘Stranger Things’ this Friday, tests among Mailjet’s database of 25,000 subscribers found that engagement with Halloween marketing peaks when the show is mentioned as a hook, with engagement lifting by 74%.

In the UK a more modest but notable bump of 10% was measured across some 1,335 respondents, with over a quarter of respondents (27%) opening messages promising content relating to the show, proving its transatlantic appeal.

Apply the same lesson to other trends, but do more than spray a hot topic’s name all over your marketing messages on Twitter or in emails.

Get creative to turn your whole campaign upside down.

(Image via)


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