Two unheard of writers with no previous television hits, a bunch of dorky Dungeons and Dragons playing kids, and a random girl with a shaved head and some freaky powers. How did all of this turn in to the most watched Netflix series to date?
Note: For those who do not watch Stranger Things, I do apologise for the references in this post that you will not understand.
If you haven’t yet seen Stranger Things, then you must be living under a rock (or in the ‘Upside Down’, but you obviously don’t know what that is). The thrilling Netflix series is set in a small fictional town in Indiana named Hawkins and stars four young monster-obsessed boys.
The sci-fi sensation crept on to our Netflix home pages with an unanticipated effect. Fans of ET and the Goonies would be patiently waiting for the series arrival. But how did the non-monster loving fans get so hooked?
The phenomenon that is Stranger Things took the world by storm, so much so that people are wondering what they ever did without the show. According to the shows writers, the Duffer brothers, the show was rejected 15 to 20 times by various networks before Netflix took it on (Thank you Netflix).
So what is the strange thing about Stranger Things?
Prior to watching Stranger Things, had you heard of any of the cast before? Probably not. Most of them have had brief TV appearances before, except of course for Winona Ryder (Will’s mum) who is said to be one of the most iconic actresses of the 1990s.
The unfamiliarity of the cast is immensely successful, despite all odds. It is interesting to watch the characters and develop your own opinion on them, rather than comparing them to a previous show you’ve seen them in. Think about it, do you really see Daniel Radcliffe in any other film and not instantly think of Harry Potter?
There is typicality about shows on Netflix nowadays with most being drug, prison or White House related. So what made Stranger Things stand out?
It’s simple – the kids! Of course, the story line itself is a very far stretch from drug mules and prison gangs but ultimately it’s the use of unheard of kid actors that make it so original. I think Stranger Things has everything that Netflix was missing – a cute adorable little dork like Dustin.
It’s difficult to grasp the challenge of a series starring teenagers, but not specifically directed towards a teenage audience and the Duffer Brothers did this perfectly! The average age of the Stranger Things fans is 18-29, a social media obsessed audience, which is evident in its media coverage online.
As well as this, there is a relatability about Stranger Things.
Dungeons and Dragons author David Ewalt says,
“You don’t have to have been a nerd in the 1980s to see yourself in one of those kids,” Ewalt continues. “We were all kids and we were all kids who faced our own monsters, whatever they were, and we’re going to relate to these characters who have a mission and troubles they have to face. Even a kid who’s that age today can look at Stranger Things and relate to it.”
Nostalgia and the absence of tech
Imagine if Lucas, Will, Dustin and Mike could Snapchat each other instead of using walky-talkies? What if Will could somehow text his mum from the Upside Down instead of talking to her through the light bulbs? Or if Nancy put out a ‘Missing person! Find Barb, please like and share’ on Facebook?
The absence of modern technology makes it for a much more exciting series. By stripping communication lines back to that day in 1983, it has our adrenaline racing considerably more.
What is even stranger about Stranger Things?
As I previously said, there was nothing to warn us about the arrival of the demogorgon, the shadow monster or the darkness of the upside down.
So how did this sci-fi thriller turn in to an overnight sensation?
Just plain and simple Word of Mouth marketing
It’s easy, we trust our friends! If your friend tells you with their blood shot eyes that they have shamelessly been living under a duvet and bingeing on Stranger Things for two days, you are going to believe that it really must be something worth watching.
Sometimes, word of mouth marketing is the only option, and it is a huge risk. The Duffer Brothers had a low budget and therefore had to gamble that people would love the show, and then talk about how much they loved the show – and this is exactly what they did.
Thanks to the success of Season 1, The Duffer Brothers had extra budget to splurge out on the ultimate advertising opportunity for the Season 2 premiere – The Super bowl. It captured the most social media buzz out of the 65 ads that were showcased during the game and generated an undeniable excitement 9 months before the series even returned to Netflix.
What could be better than Topshop AND Stranger Things? The quick-witted Topshop launched an exclusive collection in partnership with Netflix to join in on the Season 2 excitement, and obviously massively increase their sales – clever Topshop! They flaunted Stranger Things retro inspired tshirts, jumpers and bags as well as a massive in-store Hawkins experience at their Oxford Circus store.
There is no doubt about the massive buzz about the new sci-fi Stranger Things, a show you never thought you would be this obsessed with (I know I didn’t). However, if you made it to the end of this blog and still haven’t watched Stranger things…
…why haven’t you?
Loren Ward is a final year BSc in Communication, Advertising and Marketing student at Ulster University. She can be found on Twitter: @lorenward and LinkedIn: www.linkedin.com/in/loren-ward-b93049a8