Stranger Things: Marketing and Communication Strategy

On May 27, 2022, Volume 1 of the highly anticipated fourth season of Stranger Things was released in Italy. The fact that the science fiction series is so extensively talked about these days is no coincidence. Netflix has indeed been very active in trying to build hype around the new season of Stranger Things, and it has done so through a series of marketing and communication activities that represent a glaring example of how an online and offline communication strategy can perfectly and effectively merge, creating a unique and indispensable experience for the end consumer.

Stranger Things 4: Offline Marketing and Communication

In the digital age and in a context where there is increasing talk of the Metaverse and the possibility of an ever-connected life, Netflix decided to break through the screen and bring the series directly to the streets and squares of major European cities.

Focusing on Italy, the launch activities for the new season involved both Milan and Rome.

  • On May 26, Piazza Duomo in Milan hosted the premiere of season 4 with the screening of the first episode of the new season on the big screen installed in front of the Palazzo dell’Arengario. Thousands of people in attendance were able to experience an extremely immersive experience.
  • In Rome, several weeks before the launch of the new season, Piazza di Fontana di Trevi hosted a Stranger Things-themed billboard with an ironic and Italian twist. The billboard reads “O famo stranger,” referring to the Italian film “Viaggi di nozze” in which Claudia Gerini starred alongside Carlo Verdone.

But is that all? No, the marketing and communication activity went well beyond these activities. Particularly surprising was the transformation of Milan, on May 27 and 28, into a city of a different era. The calendar was set back a few years to stop in the 1980s. Following the premiere screened in Piazza Duomo, Milan woke up in a different era where yellow taxis, historical advertising signs, “paninari” (Italian youth subculture of the 1980s), roller skates, and fast food could be seen around the city.

In this way, we see how a series, potentially passively and detachedly consumable on any device, can be transformed into a real and tangible experience that creates identification with the characters and interest in a cultural context profoundly different from the current one.

Stranger Things 4: Online Marketing and Communication

Beyond the classic content releases for the launch of the new season, such as countdowns, recaps of the major events of the previous seasons with the series’ protagonists, and the release of the trailer, what is particularly interesting to note is how the offline communication strategy seamlessly merged with the online one, making it difficult to distinguish between the two.

The activities that kept Italian cities buzzing were, in fact, captured to generate interest and anticipation online as well.

An example of sponsorship was the video that told, through images of a crowded square and enthusiastic faces fully engaged in the experience, the preview screening of the first new episode of the season in Milan.

Actress Claudia Gerini was directly involved in the initiative concerning Piazza di Fontana di Trevi in Rome, through an ironic video distributed on Netflix channels, in which the protagonist asks her husband to accompany her to Hawkins on the occasion of their silver wedding anniversary trip, for an “exotic” vacation.

It is important to note that all communication related to the promotion of the event was aligned with the historical and science fiction context in which the plot unfolds: terms like “timeline” and “upside down” were widely used, once again allowing for full immersion in the series.

Branded Marketing and Communication

Netflix’s commitment went even further than what is directly visible to the public, or more precisely, to the less attentive public. The promotion of the new season was accompanied by a series of collaborations with major brands, aimed at creating new products and effective product placement.

A prime example is Coca-Cola. If you watched the last season, you would have noticed that the brand is featured multiple times. However, the can pack is not the classic can we all know today. It is, in fact, New Coke, a sweeter version of Coca-Cola launched on the market in 1985 but without much success.

Burger King couldn’t stay out of the buzz either; in its case, it was decided to create, for some American cities, a menu dedicated to the new season. It’s called the Whopper Upside Down and has the characteristic of being served upside down! Once again, we see the brand logo and the restaurant context featured repeatedly in the TV series.

Even the fashion sector was fully involved in the fourth season of the series. Nike, for example, dedicated two shoe collections to the 1980s. The first collection, named “Stranger Things Collection,” features green and orange, the official colors of the Hawkins school basketball team. The second collection celebrates American Independence Day and features colors like blue and red.

In conclusion, we can say that Netflix’s commitment to the marketing and communication activities for the new season of Stranger Things was enormous. The communication strategies involved both the online and offline worlds with a single overarching goal: to bring the story directly into people’s lives, creating a comprehensive and immersive experience that could intrigue not only fans but also those who have never seen the series.