What marketing lessons can you learn from Stranger Things? This blog post explains.

Stranger Things is clearly one of the most popular shows these days. The second season dropped at the end of October, and within the first three days, all episodes averaged around four million viewers across the U.S.

Why is the show so successful, and how can you apply these elements to your marketing strategy? Keep reading for helpful insight from the show as a whole, as well as lessons you can glean from lines delivered from the characters themselves.

5 Marketing Lessons from Stranger Things

1. Establish an Emotional Connection

There are a couple of ways Stranger Things establishes an emotional connection with viewers right away:

  • Through characters to whom they can relate. Viewers are drawn into the story right away in season one with realistic, likable characters including Mike, Lucas, Dustin, Nancy, Jim Hopper and (of course) Barb. This carries through into season two, with characters like Steve and Bob, too.
  • By establishing a nostalgic look and feel. As this post explains, “When we think back on our childhood and the good memories we remember most, it usually brings up feelings of joy and happiness…fond memories make us smile — and that leaves us open to brand messaging.” The nostalgic look and feel of the 1980s remains consistent in both seasons, including fun moments like the main characters dressing up as the Ghostbusters for Halloween or touching moments like Steve sharing the secret to his hair with Dustin.

When it comes to your brand’s marketing strategy, are you establishing an emotional connection? There are countless ways to do this; think about how to make your company relatable to your target consumers or ways to evoke feelings that will make them smile, such as joy and happiness.

2. Tell a Good Story

An old open book on a table in front of a blackboard
Is storytelling part of your marketing strategy? (Shutterstock)

A good story draws in the audience, leaving them wanting more. After the first season of Stranger Things, viewers couldn’t wait for more. And now that the second season is available, there’s already speculation for where the story will go in season three.

How do you tell a good story with your business’ marketing? How can you create a compelling mystery without having a character disappear?

Beth Adan does a great job of breaking down four elements of a good story and relating them to your marketing strategy. You can read the full post here, but the main points are:

  • Theme (Know Your Industry)
  • Plot (Know Your Story)
  • Structure (Present Readable Content)
  • Characters (Include Your Audience)

3. Entice with a Mystery

From the first episode of season one, the viewer is intrigued, curious and compelled to learn more:

  • What happened to Will Byers?
  • Who is Eleven and where did she come from?
  • Is Barb still alive?

This carries through to season two as well:

  • Who are the people in the first scene and how do they relate to Hawkins?
  • Why is Will still seeing the upside down?
  • What’s the backstory on Max and Billy?

How can you entice your target with a mystery? Create subject lines, headlines, social media updates and media pitches that dangle a carrot and leave them wanting more. Tell them just enough to make them curious and intrigued, compelling them to click through or contact you for more details.

4. Have a Clear Mission

Bubble speech with cut out phrase "mission" in the paper.
Is your end goal the reason behind each marketing tactic you use? (Stock photo)

I love this insight from Eazl: “In Stranger Things 2, there are multiple groups working parallel in order to achieve the goal of finding out how to get rid of the monster. Eventually, at the end of the season, they come together and fight alongside each other only to divide and conquer once again.”

While Eazl’s point about mission has to do with team building, it applies to marketing, too. Your business needs a clear goal mind. You may use multiple tactics to achieve this goal (similarly to the way multiple groups in Stranger Things divide and conquer), but the end goal is the same.

5. Be Real

In addition, Stranger Things sucked its viewers in through its genuine characters, including a behind-the-scenes look at the actors and creators. Along with the standard marketing promotions (talk shows, interviews, premiere events, etc), fans had an inside look behind the scenes through Beyond Stranger Things. This after-show (also hosted on Netflix) included, “An analysis of each episode and roundtable discussions with the cast and crew, including Millie Bobby Brown, Finn Wolfhard, David Harbour, Brett Gelman, and show creators Ross and Matt Duffer.”

Are you real with your target audience?

  • Be genuine. Give them a behind-the-scenes look of your company with a video tour or fun photos.
  • Reflect your personality in the language (or ‘voice’) you use.
  • Share a few ‘secrets.’ While this might seem counterintuitive, it’s actually an effective strategy!
  • If you make a mistake, own up to it, apologize and make it up to them as you can.

Marketing Insight from Stranger Things’ Quotes

Stranger Things’ characters themselves offer valuable marketing insight – even though they live in a world very different from ours (before the digital revolution).

Know Your Audience

Jonathan Byers: Do you even like baseball?
Will Byers: No, but… I don’t know. It’s fun to go with him sometimes.
Jonathan Byers: Come on. Has he ever done anything with you that you actually like? You know, like the arcade or something?
Will Byers: I don’t know.
Jonathan Byers: No, all right? He hasn’t. He’s trying to force you to like normal things. And you shouldn’t like things because people tell you you’re supposed to. Okay?

In this quote, Jonathan is making the point to Will that their father doesn’t care about them enough to do what they care about.

Do you put in the effort to know your audience? What do they care about? Get specific. Instead of just saying you want to target women, for example, research your primary target. How old are they? Are they single or in a committed relationship? Do they have kids? What about their work or income level? The more you know about your target, the better you can reach them through strategic marketing techniques.

Be Distinctive

Jonathan Byers: Nobody normal ever accomplished anything meaningful in this world.

Your brand is unique, so embrace it. What sets your business apart from its competition? How can you use that to your advantage? Make sure you infuse your company’s distinctive personality and voice into its marketing approach to show potential customers why they should work with you.

Tell The Truth

Famous Mark Twain quote "When in doubt, tell the truth" on blackboard
Friends don’t lie; your business shouldn’t either. (Stock photo)

Eleven: Friends don’t lie.

A lot of people think public relations and marketing is all about spin. While you want to position your business in the best possible light, you also need to be honest. Never, ever lie. Consumers appreciate integrity; keep yours intact while promoting your brand.

Get Help

Joyce Byers: This is not yours to fix alone. You act like you’re all alone out there in the world, but you’re not. You’re not alone.

Blogging, social media management, Facebook ads, e-newsletters and media pitching; all these tactics can be very valuable for your business, but also overwhelming. Don’t be afraid to ask for help! In addition to all sorts of helpful resources, a social media partner or public relations firm can help get the word out about your brand so you can focus on your true passion: your business!

Be Curious

Mr. Clarke: Hello?
Dustin: Mr Clarke, it’s Dustin.
Mr. Clarke: Dustin? Is everything okay?
Dustin: Ye-yeah, I just, I, I have a… science question.
Mr. Clarke: It’s ten o’clock on Saturday. Why don’t we pick this up on…
Dustin: Do you know anything about sensory deprivation tanks? Specifically how to build one?
Mr. Clarke: Sensory deprivation…? Wh-what is this for?
Dustin: Fun.
Mr. Clarke: Okay. Well. Why don’t we talk about it Monday, after school. Okay?…
Dustin: You always say we should never stop being curious, to always open any curiosity door we find.
Mr. Clarke: Dustin…
Dustin: Why are you keeping this curiosity door locked?!

Never stop learning! Curiosity and creativity will keep your marketing strategy fresh. Keep coming up with new approaches, and don’t be afraid to try something new.

Use Accurate Language

Dustin: You’re going to take out the Demogorgon with a slingshot?
Lucas: First of all, it’s a wrist-rocket.

When you write blog posts, email newsletters, social media updates or any other copy, is each word you use the best it can be? Instead of using generic adjectives like “good” or “great,” choose language that clearly and accurately paints a picture your target audience can see in their minds.

Slow Down

Jim Hopper: Mornings are for coffee and contemplation.

An effective marketing strategy takes time to develop and implement. Don’t be so focused on doing everything all at once that you don’t take a moment to breathe and evaluate. As you go, contemplate your goals, the tactics you’ll use to achieve them, how you’ll actually carry out those tactics, how they’re going, etc. Slow down and evaluate your strategy every four to six weeks.

Have you seen both seasons of Stranger Things yet? Did you notice any marketing insight I missed? Share your thoughts in the comments below!