'Stranger' Promos: Netflix Teams Up With Big Names for Hit Show

July 10, 2019

By Michelle Castillo

If you've watched the latest season of "Stranger Things," you may have seen Lucas drinking New Coke - and then saw that product on your grocery shelves.

Or, you may have had a hankering for U.S.S. Butterscotch ice cream from Scoops Ahoy, the ice cream shop where Steve and Robin work. Later, you realized you could actually buy that flavor (and more!) at your local Baskin Robbins.

These are no strange coincidences. Coke, Baskin Robbins, all the brands featured in episodes on the third season of "Stranger Things" are part of marketing partnerships struck by Netflix. The companies were featured in the show for free, and they were allowed to create "Stranger Things"-themed products. It's great promotion for "Stranger Things" without Netflix directly having to buy ads.

As more companies like Disney, WarnerMedia, and Apple launch their own streaming services, the competition to get people to subscribe to a certain service is getting tougher. The average American watches 3.4 streaming services, according to a study by nScreenMedia. On average, each of those services costs $8.53, for a total of $29 per month. As Netflix keeps increasing prices ー and competitors like Disney+ launch their services at $6.99 a month ー letting viewers know about its original content is going to be key to its survival.

In the case of New Coke, "Stranger Things" showrunners the Duffer Brothers remembered the failed product Coca-Cola tried to launch in April 1985. The reformulated product was not a hit with drinkers, and the original product was swiftly brought back three months later. After writing it into the script, they reached out to Coke to include it in the show. Coke, as part of the deal, brought back New Coke for a limited time through the "Stranger Things" online store. Coke also advertised the New Coke product ー and by proximity the sci-fi Netflix series.

Not all companies can use "Stranger Things" characters for free, however. H&M, Nike, Levi's, and Lego have all created limited edition "Stranger Things" items. Brands that make these consumer products do pay a licensing fee. Though Netflix does not disclose the terms of these deals, typical licensing deals usually include a fee to use the brand and sometimes a percentage of merchandise sales. Though licensing can be a source of revenue, the goal of these deals ー along with the marketing partnerships ー is to drive fans to the shows, rather than recoup a profit from sales, Netflix said.

The "Stranger Things" marketing blitz may have worked. About 40.7 million accounts have watched some of Stranger Things' third season as of July 8 according to Netflix, meaning at least 70 percent of one episode. And 18.2 million households have finished the season.