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We truly are in the golden age of television. Stranger Things 3 hit our Netflix accounts on the 4th of July and 40 million households worldwide started watching on the weekend of its release. I’m not ashamed to admit that I was one of the 18 million who watched the entire season in that weekend either…

With such astronomical numbers of people being reached via their screens, much like the gate to the Upside Down, an opening was created – an opening for some good old-fashioned product placement. You might say that this is an out-dated way of achieving some brand exposure, but for the likes of Coca Cola, a brand already recognised worldwide, an outing in the 80s is a great way to remind an audience of it’s history and to highlight the fact that the brand is timeless.

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Now before we delve into the Coca Cola/Stranger Things team up, I must offer warning (albeit whilst passing judgement) of spoilers to anyone that is yet to see Stranger Things 3.

For the sane people that have ensured that they are all caught up on Mike, Eleven and the gang’s shenanigans, I’m sure you have an opinion on the * cough * subtle crossover between the Coca Cola brand and the town of Hawkins, Indiana.

The crossover began with a promo video for Stranger Things 3. Coca Cola and Netflix teamed up to produce a retro look teaser trailer for Stanger Things 3 which has some of our favourite characters seen buying and drinking the famously disastrous “New Coke”.

Image: Netflix

When the series was released, the Coke/Things mash up continued and stepped it up a notch. Not an episode goes by without a character or extra having a can of Coke to hand or the bright neon light of a Coke branded vending machine shining in the background. The pinnacle of the product placement, however, is actually written into the script. After fleeing the villainous Mind Flayer (who is back and more brutal than ever) some of the gang end up hiding in a supermarket. Whilst searching for any supplies that may assist them in their quest to defeat the monster from the Upside Down, Caleb McLaughlin’s character, Lucas, effectively runs through an entire New Coke advert whilst sipping noisily from a can of the stuff for all the gang to see and hear.

This, much like New Coke in the 80s, was not met with a positive reception.

Other than feeling a little shoehorned in, the crossover between the Stranger Things and Coca Cola brands actually makes sense on a range of levels. Firstly (and most basically) they share a colour scheme. Bright red is a colour that fans of fizzy drinks and streaming TV shows would almost certainly relate to the two brands. If we are looking at the branding on a basic visual level, a combination of the two seems almost meant to be.

Images: Netflix and The Independent

Another reason the crossover makes sense is the nostalgia factor that Stranger Things and Coca Cola both evoke for a large section of their target audiences. Stranger Things’ popularity stems from the references to the joyful, bygone era of the 80s and in 1985 (the year in which Stranger Things 3 is set) the Coca Cola brand soared to new heights after it’s famous New Coke failure and Coca Cola Classic re-brand. People have been faithful to the Coke brand for decades so for them to work in coalition with a TV show that is watched for it’s nostalgic tendencies is a sure fire way to stir up some memories and get people thirsty for a Coke.

The coming together of the Stranger Things and Coca Cola brands also creates the opportunity for further merchandising. The release of limited edition Stranger Things Coke cans is a great use of marketing collateral and the brands come together cleanly and cleverly. The addition of the Stranger Things logo to the can is seamless. This, paired with placing the Coca Cola logo “upside down” is a subtle combo that works to glorious affect.

Stranger things cans

Image: The National

All together, it is thought that in the first three days of its release, Stranger Things 3 gave Coca Cola exposure worth a staggering $1.5 million!

To sum up, the teams at Coca Cola and Netflix have come together in a wonderfully charming way and have created a very memorable campaign. As well as that, they did so with a smile. They’ve positioned themselves in a very positive light that makes it abundantly clear to their audience that despite being large, internationally recognised brands, they are happy to laugh at themselves and not take themselves too seriously.

On a very grand scale, this is a great example of how concise strategy paired with creative application and design can combine to create a multi platform campaign that reinforces brand values and reinvigorates an existing audience through the story and heritage of both brands.

It also helps to have a storyline about world consuming monsters from another dimension to fall back on if the happy-go-lucky campaign doesn’t pay off…


Image: Netflix

Stranger Things 3 can be watched now on Netflix. Coca Cola can be bought almost anywhere.

Header Image: Netflix