Have you heard? The new season of Stranger Things is out. If you haven’t heard, you might have now, as its plastered everywhere.
The marketing push for Stranger Things 4 has been immense and ubiquitous. And it’s easy to understand why: the show has become a global cultural phenomenon. Brands everywhere are trying to tie products in with the retro show.
It’s a really interesting marketing approach to analyse, because it can go so right… or so terribly wrong.
It’s not the first time that cultural phenomenons get marketing tie-ins. Here are some other examples of this marketing tactic.
It’s been several years since the last season of Stranger Things was released. To celebrate the return of the hit show, Netflix is holding back nothing.
There’s been some interesting campaigns going on.
One more, a big sculpture planted on Bondi Beach appeared.
The installation consists of an apparent portal to the Upside Down, the show’s horrific alternate universe. The activation included people in yellow hazmat suits examining it. For the public, there’s no indication at the actual installation that it has anything to do with Stranger Things. It seems designed for organic social media sharing and word-of-mouth marketing.
It’s an original concept. t’s always interesting when something from your TV screen bleeds over into the real world. It feels like a natural extension of the show’s events.
Grill’d, the healthy burger joint, also revealed an interesting tie-in with the Demogorgon burger, which actually looks friggin’ delicious.
The burger comes with roasted peppers and spicy buffalo dipping sauce, on top of Grill’d’s normal fare.
The burger also kicked off the “defEAT the Demogorgon” competition, where fans could win a trip to San Francisco and tickets to see the Stranger Things: The Experience exhibit. To enter, fans had to order the burger and tell Grill’d “in 25 words or less, how did you defEAT the Demogorgon?”
The campaign also featured an online game of the same name. Players had to find the Demogorgon in a digitised version of Hawkins with nothing but a flashlight.
This campaign is a good attempt of brand pairing. It’s not just a cynical attempt to attach a name to something popular. There was actually a lot of time and effort put into it. Marketing needs to feel less like advertising and more like a new branch of the brand’s content, and this is a perfect example.
Another good example came with the release of season 3. Spotify worked with Netflix to curate a series of character-themed playlists. Using its algorithm Spotify would automatically assign listeners one of the playlists based on their listening preferences. Super creepy! Which ties in perfectly with the show’s dash of horror.
Unfortunately, not all tie-ins workout this well.
Monopoly, everyone’s favourite board game, spoiled the events of season 4 with their new Stranger Things edition. Whoops! Although, in this bingeing age, I do have to wonder who exactly is such a big fan of the show that they bought the game, but didn’t already watch the entire season before cracking open the box?
There’s also this watch from Timex. Now, I’m a watch guy but there’s nothing appealing to me about just buying a product that’s got somebody else’s logo slapped on it. It feels a bit forced and opportunistic. But I’m sure there’s Timex fans who would be interested in adding this to their collection.
There’s better examples of watch and media property tie-ins though.
Omega has released a special edition watch in conjunction with the last two Daniel Craig-fronted Bond films. These work because it builds on the decades-long relationship between the two brands.
Even more subtle is this Grand Seiko x Godzilla watch. You might not even know that the watch has anything to do with Godzilla. But the cracked red and black leather is meant to represent the King of Monster’s rough and tough hide. The watch also celebrates the enormous impact and legacy of the Japanese kaiju films. This union feels especially organic to me, as the watch also features artwork from the director of 2016’s Shin Godzilla, Shinji Higuchi.
Maybe the difference between these three examples is the longevity of the properties. Godzilla and James Bond are the longest and second longest running film properties, respectively. The brands tying in with them have also been around for decades, with complex and fascinating histories of its own.
Stranger Things is a hit, no doubt. But will its brand really last for nearly a century?
Regardless, the key to a good tie-in is that it be more than just sharing logos. These campaigns should have serious thought behind them, and should offer an expansion of both brands’ content offerings.
In the best examples listed above, the tie-ins relate to each other. It can influence what the partner means in the cultural milieu. Grill’d becomes more than just a restaurant – it’s dipping its toes in entertainment. Omega isn’t just a watch, it’s a symbol of film history as well. So too with the Grand Seiko – it’s a celebration of Japanese culture.