Mike, Will, Lucas, Dustin, “El” and the rest of the Stranger Things clan returned to Netflix on October 27th, marking the much-anticipated return of one of the streaming service’s most popular shows. Over 14 million viewers tuned into the first season to watch the squad unravel a supernatural mystery and that number is expected to grow with season two being available in 190 countries. However, the viewership numbers could be a bit skewed as Netflix is fickle with revealing that sort of data. Even so, there’s no doubt that Netflix, with the help of Stranger Things, has a stronghold on the entertainment industry and 100 million and counting subscribers back this up.
“Tentpole” programming like Stranger Things are typically the focal point of the marketing calendar. Campaigns are dedicated to generating awareness and hype for the premiere, as tune-in numbers for the first episode can forecast the success, or failure, of a season. As long as the show isn’t crap, press and word-of-mouth referrals can carry on the promotions, especially in today’s social media-driven age.
Unlike more traditional TV providers like HBO and Showtime, Netflix has the ability to leverage data to make calculated marketing decisions and pivot quickly. For season one, Netflix took a very conservative approach, executing minimal promotion leading up to the premiere of Stranger Things. Instead, the streaming service chose to evaluate the stats for the first couple episodes, which were wildly impressive, and eventually put the dollars behind the sci-fi thriller once there was proven mass interest in it. Stranger Things obviously became a smash hit, as folks can’t get enough of those kids, and it was featured in Netflix’s very first Super Bowl commercial, an ad that generated the most social buzz last year. Quite the infusion in the budget.
For season two, Netflix juiced up the marketing efforts, especially when it came to partnering with brands who wanted to jump on the Stranger Things hype train:
- Reebok- a limited edition of the 1984 Reebok Ex-O-Fit Hi Clean sneakers, which are worn on the show by Dustin, were released.
- Spotify- the streaming music service is matching users to 13 Stranger Things characters based on their musical tastes.
- Lyft- the ride-sharing company scared the shi*t out of some of its riders in in Los Angeles and Philadelphia.
Even without these partnerships, there was substantial organic hype for season two. 24 hours following the October 27th date, the new season generated 3,800% more social mentions than the first, with Stranger Things being mentioned over 670,000 times.
Like an entertainment company with desirable content, Netflix can also translate Stranger Things into ancillary revenue outside of subscriptions. Disney is the king of this, as it typically flips every single one of its animated releases into merchandise licensing and retail dollars. In 2016, the Mouse generated over $5.5B from these verticals. In time for the holidays, Netflix commissioned a Stranger Things sweater available at Target. Other show related products include coffee mugs, action figures, and T-shirts sold at Hot Topic, in addition to versions of Monopoly and Clue.
Ultimately, shows like Stranger Things, Master of None, Orange is the New Black, and formerly House of Cards are as marketing assets for Netflix as a whole. They drive new subscribers while retaining current ones, hence why the company plans to invest $8 billion in original content in 2018. For comparison, HBO, which has exceptional content spends $2 billion last year. Couple that with a similar marketing budget (Netflix spent $1 billion in marketing in 2017) and the traditional players may see themselves further behind.
Stranger Things hasn’t reached its peak of popularity yet, and as long as those kids don’t age too fast, it and Netflix will keep people binging.