Netflix’s Stranger Things has been a breakout success, and part of that is thanks to the show’s impeccable marketing. The Stranger Things marketing campaign harkened back to the 1980s in a big way, and as a result, the 80s are cool again.
With the recent release of volume 2 within season 4 of the series, there has been a whirlwind of anticipation surrounding the supernatural town of Hawkins, Indiana. From imaginative fan-fiction to cryptic tattoos, Stranger Things has taken over the internet once again.
What’s cooler than the show’s fantastical storyline and shock twists is its unique marketing strategy. We’re here to take you through the top 5 marketing tactics that boosted Stranger Things into the highest-grossing Netflix series of all time.
Back To Basics
Netflix’s first Stranger Things marketing campaign debuted in 2016 before the release of the first season. Taking a page out of the 1980s handbook, their creative team used classic marketing techniques to attract viewer attention to the new show.
One of the more retro marketing strategies was the release of VHS tapes to promote the show’s first season. When opened, they revealed DVDs instead of VHS tapes, but it was a nice touch for Stranger Things fans who grew up in the 80s. To teem with that theme, a Stranger Things soundtrack was released on cassette tape and available for purchase on sites like Amazon.
For the launch of the show’s second season, mysteriously-placed billboards were plastered around New York City advertising the fictional ‘Hawkins Power & Light’ electrical company from the Stranger Things universe. With a working 1800 number, callers were treated to theme music and handed clues on the second season.
In true 80s fashion, old-school advertisements were once again used for the launch of season 4 in 2022. The Stranger Things team took to plastering retro adverts around the London district of Shoreditch, advertising the fictional ‘Surfer Boy Pizza’ along with other Hawkins companies.
While going back to basics and taking advertising offline may sound prehistoric, depending on your target market and what you’re trying to achieve, it could just be the unique talking point that your company is searching for.
In addition to these old-school marketing techniques, Netflix has also taken to more modern channels to market Stranger Things throughout the years. Virtual reality (VR) has been a major channel for the Stranger Things universe to generate consumer interest and off-screen involvement in the show.
A 360-degree VR experience was created shortly after the launch of season 1 to transport viewers into the Hawkins universe. The high definition video allows users to experience an immersive entry into a popular scene within the show.
With over 13.5 million views, this is a great example of a relatively low-cost marketing strategy with enormous return. Viewers can access the VR experience for free on YouTube, or can take it to the next level using Google Cardboard.
Creating a highly technical yet intuitive experience is something our developers are well versed in. Learn more about our web development services here.
Behind The Scenes
It’s no secret that consumers crave extra intel into their favourite series. Marketers who strike the right balance between suspense and oversharing can reach a goldmine of curiosity, but it has to be done with taste.
The creation of Beyond Stranger Things at the launch of season 2 is the perfect example of striking this balance. The 7-part series designed to be watched after the show’s second season saw actors discussing various elements of their characters and the series. Its clever release gave fans more binge-worthy content and created an inner-circle for super-fans to gain more access into the Stranger Things universe.
Another intriguing example of inviting the audience behind the scenes was the creation of Hawkins Monitored. This aptly named project involved a YouTube playlist of surveillance cameras, spying on various characters within Hawkins. The short yet well-placed monitoring of these scenes breathed life into the Stranger Things universe, giving the illusion that characters were living out their lives even after the episodes ended.
Personalising The Stranger Things Universe
Similar to behind-the-scenes content, creating personalised media for your consumers is a great way to generate repeat engagement and loyalty to your brand. Consumers feel like they have an ‘in’ when they feel like they are accessing never-before-seen content, and it’s a great way to ensure they’re left wanting more.
A common theme throughout Stranger Things’s launches over the years has been music. The two conglomerates of Netflix and Spotify partnered up for the launch of season 4 this year, producing personalised Spotify playlists for fans of the show. Following a Twitter link, users are taken to a completely personalised playlist of 50 tracks – with the first song symbolising the show’s storyline of conquering Vecna, the monster plaguing the town of Hawkins in season 4.
This strategy proves the importance of making the customer number-one, and is a great example of how an old-school idea of mixtapes can be brought into the 21st century with a bang. If you’re interested in learning more about capitalising on social marketing, check out Studio Culture’s social media offerings here.
Quite possibly the most extravagant marketing ploy of the series is the show’s experiential marketing. Throughout season launches, the Stranger Things team has taken over pop-culture news with their outlandish and unbelievable stunts across the globe.
In 2017, Netflix partnered with NYC creative agency, Doner LA, to offer ComicCon attendees free pedicab rides around the city. The selling point? These cabs were driven by Dustin Henderson lookalikes – a fan-favourite of the show. This stunt immersed fans (literally) into the Stranger Things universe and took guerrilla marketing to the next level.
The launch of season 4 this year saw experiential marketing take another global turn. Portals to the ‘Upside Down’ (the show’s alternate dimension) started appearing in cities around the world, including Cologne, Krakow, Mumbai, Los Angeles and even Sydney. Locals in Bondi woke to a terrifyingly realistic portal planted in the middle of Bondi Beach, which immediately took the national news cycle by storm. The hazmat-suited actors added another realistic edge to the stunt.
In other cities, portals appeared on global landmarks in places like Duomo Square in Milan, and the Empire State Building in N.Y.C. We don’t need to tell you the significance that global experiential marketing can have for a business – but if Netflix’s strategy is anything to go by, it’s clear that taking marketing to this level pays off.
Take A Leaf Out Of The Stranger Things’ Marketing Strategy With Studio Culture
The allure of Stranger Things has always been larger than the show. Boosting the popularity of 80s fashion, music and pop culture turned Stranger Things into a cultural phenomenon, and it’s all thanks to the minds behind the show’s marketing strategies.
We’ve only touched on a handful of Netflix’s marketing strategies when it comes to Stranger Things, but we hope it’s broadened your horizons on what can be achieved with a calculated and open-minded marketing strategy. If you’re in the market for expanding your current marketing plan or are interested in starting from scratch, Studio Culture is the agency for you. From social media specialists to SEO strategists and web designers, our team is equipped to launch your next marketing strategy with a bang.