The Upside-Down of Marketing with “Stranger Things”

As we excitedly binge the 3rd season of “Stranger Things”, becoming even more engrossed in the world of the Upside-Down, we are surrounded by strong marketing campaigns supporting this fan favorite Netflix original by some seriously big brands. 

“Stranger Things” is the epitome of nostalgia and making the retro style from our youth cool again. Whether it’s the rad clothes, the relevance of a shopping mall, or stellar references to 80s culture, this show gets it right. Netflix knows the market for this show so well and does a fantastic job at creating experiences with partner brands that will peak the attention of their fans. 

Fandom is totally a thing! Brands know this and will do anything they can to captivate new audiences and increase their reach by taking brand partnerships to the next level. In the 80s, advertising was all about product placement within the show, sometimes in super obvious ways where they made sure to hold up a can of soda or a box of cereal in just the right way to give screen time for the full logo visual. 

These days, we need to cater to a new audience of people who want exclusive experiences, instant gratification and to show off their love of “Stranger Things” as a brand. Below are key examples of top brands using the launch of the 3rd season as an excellent marketing campaign tactic. We don’t know about you, but as fans, we will definitely be looking into these brands because of their connection to the hit show. 

Coca-Cola 

Perhaps no brand goes further with its “Stranger Things” Season 3 promotion than Coca-Cola (one of the benefits of having an advertising budget larger than some countries’ entire GDP, to be sure). The reason this works so well is the synergy between resurrecting 1985’s New Coke brand to match with the retro vibe that “Stranger Things” does so well.

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The New Coke commercial/ST S3 teaser hybrid is a cornerstone for the campaign and was directed by the Duffer brothers themselves – airing online, on TV and in theaters. New Coke cans are available for fans to purchase, scan a QR code (and potentially win a prize), but at least are granted access to unique character GIFs.

coca cola ad with Stranger Things characters

Source: Coca Cola

Burger King

Sometimes a promotional campaign can be as simple as really not doing anything, but styling it as “a thing.” Burger King did a simple burger flip, some branding images, and called it a “Stranger Things” campaign. The Whopper, when served upside down and in some unique packaging, can still get fans excited and incite a visit to the fast food chain just to participate in the “one time” urgency of the promotion. Rebrand your Twitter profile, pop some QR codes on your cups, and re-hash the same Coke promotion, and boom. Success. They’re part of the conversation. 

Source: Burger King Twitter

Mongoose Max Bikes

The demographic for “Stranger Things” is absolutely those who lived like the characters in the show, namely Gen X and older Millennials who fondly remember those long summers, touring the neighborhood – nay, the WORLD, in all its infinite freedom – on their two-wheeled transportation. 

Nostalgia is perfect for this audience and now that retro is cool again, Mongoose has released a limited edition bike just like Maxine “Max” Mayfield’s bike, as played by Sadie Sink, and it comes complete with pegs, a 1980s frame, and a headlamp for exploring the Upside Down. The bike is for the perpetual kids-at-heart, or their own children, now that they’re grown. Shell out $220 at Target and tell those kids to get out of the house and come back when the streetlamps come on, or the Demogorgons come out.

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H&M 

Fans of the show may find themselves wanting to be fully decked out in summer gear straight out of Hawkins, Indiana, and H&M has got them covered. A cleverly designed pattern of flowers, ferns and demogorgons is used on a romper, swimsuit, and men’s tee, which is a great way for fans to see if other fans can make the visual connection. Hawkins Pool lifeguard shirts, shorts, sandals, hats and visors really tap into that July summertime vibe circulating around the 4th of July season premiere date. We wouldn’t be surprised to see someone embracing the entire “Stranger Things” wardrobe that H&M is offering when the show is out. 

Source: H&M

Chicago Cubs & Snapchat

Cub fans who were at the June 24th game against the Atlanta Braves were treated to an exclusive Snapchat filter that turned Chicago’s Wrigley Field into the Upside Down-version of the stadium. Everyone loves a good Snapchat filter, and this one came with a creepy surprise when a huge demogorgon pops out of the iconic sign, complete with background synth music!

Any brand can take advantage of existing Snapchat filters or create their own, and it should make us all think about the creative opportunities it allows for with our own brands. We may not have AR-design capable graphic designers and coders, but the channel is a unique one that shouldn’t be ignored. The MLB & Stranger Things cross-promotion is ongoing thru the summer and ends with The Colorado Rockies August 30th game. 

Universal Studios Halloween Horror Nights


When something works, might as well keep it going! Both Universal Studios locations are going to be returning their “Stranger Things” themed mazes as part of their Halloween Horror Nights, running from September 6th (Orlando) and 13th (Hollywood). This will be the third year Universal is treating fans to a fully immersive experience to support the show, so it’s becoming something fans surely look forward to each year there’s a new season to promote. (2018’s installation sure looked cool!) 

A unique and immersive experience is something fans are willing to pay for, and more than likely going to be posting and sharing their excitement online – something we know Netflix and Universal are both fully supportive of; no one doesn’t like online buzz and engagement, basically free press. 

Video Games Galore!


In case you binge the entire season and can’t get enough, the team that created the show has introduced a video game to go along with this season. And of course, since it’s “Stranger Things” themed, it’s a 16-bit style game developed by BonusXP, aptly called “Stranger Things 3: The Game”. The release date coincides with the launch of season 3 on Netflix, available on consoles and PC.

But wait, there’s more! In order to compete with the Harry Potter and Pokemon augmented reality games, “Stranger Things” is also developing a mobile AR game, scheduled to release in 2020. The game was announced in June at the E3 gaming conference. Details are limited, but it promises to allow players to navigate the Upside-Down with their mobile device using location-based technology similar to Pokemon Go and Harry Potter: Wizards Unite do. Rest assured, it will also provide a retro vibe full of captivating graphics, puzzles to solve, creatures to defeat and more.   

Baskin Robbins Ice Cream Truck

Summer is meant for ice cream and what better way to welcome the July 4 launch of the 3rd season than with a cold ice cream themed after your favorite show? Baskin Robbins has teamed with Netflix to introduce special themed flavors and a classic ice cream truck themed after the Scoops Ahoy shop teased in the trailer for Season 3.

Source: Baskin Robbins Twitter

Ice cream flavors of the month include items like a Demogorgon Sundae with a waffle bowl shaped like the monster’s face, an Upside Down Sundae, an Elevanade Freeze and more. In addition to the limited edition ice cream concoctions, an authentic Scoops Ahoy Ice Cream Shop truck will venture through the West Coast this summer to sell the “Stranger Things” delights. Baskin Robbins has helped bring a nostalgic dessert into the millennial mindset with an experiential activation, complete with DoorDash delivery options. The thorough marketing tactics built around this partnership are sure to boost engagement for both brands. 

Retro Nikes are Back

On June 27, Nike released a new 80s inspired clothing line with classic 1985 Nike’s as part of a collaboration with “Stranger Things”. This new collection is called the Hawkins High pack, complete with the Hawkins High School tiger mascot as well as the colors of green and orange included throughout the classic sneakers, shirts, phys-ed class gear, sweatpants and more. 

For an Independence Day exclusive launch, Nike developed a second line, called the OG Collection with red, white and blue 80s-inspired, higher-end apparel and sneakers with a 1985 year marker on the heel and collector’s tin to complete the “Stranger Things” partnership. This collection also embodies the story of how some of the trucks packed with new Nike product came up missing in the summer of 1985 while passing through Hawkins, Indiana and have just recently been found. These two new/vintage collections appeal to fans of the show, sneaker connoisseurs and those feeling a bit of nostalgia for the classic sneaker they miss. 

IKEA Furniture Set

IKEA has recently introduced a “Real Life Series” with a collection of affordable furniture and decor pieces designed to reenact pop culture living room sets from shows like “The Simpsons”, “Friends”, and “Stranger Things”. 

The “Stranger Things” room, labeled as a “Room for Everyone” is a perfect set for fans of the show in need of superfly decor themed after Will Byers’ house. Consumers can purchase themed throw pillows, colored string lights, a bookshelf and even the wallpaper complete with the painted alphabet to bring Hawkins, Indiana to their home (note: connection to the Upside-Down via light messaging not included – sadly). 

Legos Upside Down Set

Another nostalgic thing from the 80s was Legos. Unless you stepped on them, you likely have great memories of hours spent building epic things out of square plastic blocks. 

The “Stranger Things” lego set, available now, takes your childhood Legos to the next level. Once built, the set unveils the Byers’ house, not only as it sits in the real world, but also as it appears in the Upside Down. Fans can marvel in the attention to detail of this set from the boombox, movie posters on the wall and drawings to the iconic painted wallpaper in the living room with, wait for it, light up functionality. The set comes with all of your favorite characters, including Sheriff Hopper and his police cruiser, as well as an adorable mini demogorgon. Who needs a dollhouse when your kids (ok mostly you) can recreate an entire world built with your own hands and based on your favorite pop culture phenomenon.

The end…or is it?

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