11 Supernatural Ways 'Stranger Things' Has Turned Marketing Upside Down

As a kid who grew up in the ’80s — sporting my Jams and Swatch watch as I navigated the neighborhood on my BMX Mongoose — I fell for Stranger Things within the first few minutes of episode one. The phenomenon that is now Stranger Things couldn’t be better timed for us marketers. With season two now watched by over 16 million fans, the franchise has successfully merged modern-day marketing with a simplicity that made the ’80s a decade as endearing as Eggo waffles.

So, let’s tune in to this curated list of 11 (obviously!) ways Stranger Things has made us marketers re-think how to engage audiences:

1. Say goodbye to the generational gap.

The show has bridged the generational gap in ways most brands can’t crack. Stranger Things has those of us who grew up in the ’80s seated right beside millennials and centennials as we binge watch and then regroup to discuss. Stranger Things taps into cultural nostalgia to multiple generations, creating a new form of connective tissue that isn’t just for “80’s nerds.”

2. Be proactively reactive.

When E.T. came out in 1982, Reese’s Pieces got an unexpected, extraterrestrial plug. But, since social media didn’t exist back then, the brand had no choice but to sit back and ride the wave. On the flip side, when Stranger Things gave Eggo a major free plug during this year’s Super Bowl, rather than just take the mention, Eggo was smart enough to jump into the conversation and, even more proactively, created a new conversation by launching clever tactics of its own, such as a spoiler-alert pop-up blocker and an interactive microsite.

3. Think “open API.”

Similar to how the tech space created an open API for developers, Stranger Things has opened the gate for brands to jump on the bandwagon. While there’s a clear difference between licensed partnerships and simple content references, many brands were able to harness the buzz leading up to season two to create new relevancy — from fast casual restaurant chains like Panda Express touting a supernatural kind of love for orange chicken to canine influencer Doug the Pug launching Stranger Pugs 2. The moral here is to always think open.

4. Working together wins.

Traditionally, the legal department is the Demogorgon to marketers; we think press and they think protect. Netflix, which airs Stranger Things, proved legal and marketing can work together to build earned buzz when its legal team issued a super creative cease and desist letter asking a Chicago bar to shut down an unauthorized pop-up using references from the show. It’s a great lesson in how brands can work across departments to carry forth a master narrative.