The Strangest Things from the “Stranger Things” Marketing Campaign
Netflix’s star series is shamelessly capitalizing on your ’80s nostalgia.
Millennials have been called “the nostalgia generation,” perhaps because of our penchant for rewatching Disney films and rebooting them in live-action, or bringing back questionable fashion choices (chokers, leggings-as-pants), or bingeing Friends and comparing Harry Potter to every world event. Now, Netflix is taking full advantage of all that.
While previous Stranger Things seasons were set in the blustery glow of fall—Hopper trumping through a pumpkin patch, Joyce stringing up Christmas lights—the third season is set in summertime, and the streaming service released the whole binge-able eight episodes over a long July 4 weekend. This time around, Billy is a sexy lifeguard at a pool where middle-aged suntanned women ogle him, Dustin is returning home from summer camp with an alleged new GF, and the now-pubescent kids have plenty of time to make out with each other on long, school-less days.
Ahead of this year’s Independence Day, fans lined the Santa Monica Pier for a Stranger Things–themed fair, though wait times were said to be between six and seven hours because of the rampant interest. Netflix’s biggest cash cow has proven the streaming platform can make a show without the backing of a major studio like they had with House of Cards or Orange is the New Black. The third season of ST was viewed by 40.7 million in the first four days of its release, marking a record for Netflix.
Sure, it’s a good show—but its popularity is helped along big time by endless promotions and brand collaborations. So without further ado, here are five of the weirdest items the Stranger Things marketing campaigns hath wrought. It’s more than just your typical merch—the series has seeped into our collective consciousness, influencing our pop cultural desires.
Netflix is partnering with Microsoft Corp to bring back Windows 1, the first version of the software that made the company valuable back in 1985, the same year the show is set. The app will include Microsoft Paint and the word processor Write, plus Stranger Things games and videos. No one actually uses a Windows PC in the new season, but Dustin does wear a 1985 “Camp Know Where” hat with a PC on it. See more details on Microsoft’s site here.
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Scoops Ahoy Ice Cream
Season three’s central set piece is an enormous conglomerate, pulsating with energy and neon and way too many colors: the Starcourt Mall. Inside that mall is Scoops Ahoy, a nautical-themed ice cream parlor where Steve and Robin work. So Netflix has partnered with Baskin-Robbins for a promotion featuring limited-edition ST flavors: Eleven’s Heaven has a waffle cone base to honor her love of Eggos, the Upside Down Praline has candied pecans and caramel, and the U.S.S. Butterscotch (the nautical thing again) is available to-go in pre-packaged quarts at a select few Baskin-Robbins locales. There’s even a Demogorgon sundae, though IDK if I’d want to eat that one.
When “New Coke” was introduced by Coca-Cola in 1985 (once again, the year this season is set), the public didn’t take to it very kindly. The company reverted back to the original formula less than three months later, and the whole thing was written off as “the marketing blunder of the century” by CC itself. However, that reviled New Coke has now returned, thanks to Stranger Things. For $20, you can purchase a glass bottle of Coke with a Stranger Things logo, a bottle of Coke Zero with a ST logo, and two cans of New Coke. Click here to buy and check out the site’s retro design. It’s like the last thirty years never happened.
Dungeons & Dragons
On every season of ST, Mike, Dustin, Lucas, and Will play D&D in the basement. It’s their way of bonding, plus it even helps Dustin to anticipate the shadow monster’s motivations in season two. So Hasbro Gaming has released a Stranger Things–themed Dungeons & Dragons starter kit, including dice, a rulebook, an adventure book with a drawing of Will the Wise, character sheets, and two Demogorgon figurines. You can even play as one of the boys’ own characters from the show. It’s available at Hasbro, game shops, and on Amazon.
Nike is offering a line of vintage sneakers and sports goods, and they’ve even gone the extra mile in crafting a faux backstory to go along with it: according to them, some Nike shipments were lost back in the summer of 1985, and only now they have been found. Suuuuure. There are two sneaker lines: the “Hawkins High” Collection and the OG Collection (Hawkins, Indiana isn’t real, but it’s where everyone lives on the show). Each shoe comes with ST-inspired packaging and special edition pins. There will also be Hawkins-themed shirts, hats, and hoodies. If Steve Harrington is your cool dad and you wanna emulate his style (who doesn’t?), check it out here.