When Stranger Things 4 aired it broke all records, having the most hours watched in a weekend premiere for a streaming series, hitting a staggering 286.79 million. It’s Netflix’ most-streamed title, and has gained industry respect as well as a list of award wins and nominations too long to mention.
People have loved the series for its casting, filming and reference to 80’s pop culture. The resulting retro revival has seen Kate Bush enjoy a number one single, 37 years after Running Up That Hill was first released…and the chest rug may be next. It’s a prospect that could have Gillette and their competitors very, very worried.
In the latest season, viewers watched wimpy, babysitting fop Steve Harrington transform into a warrior, and he’s gained a lot of young fans, who surely can’t have missed his hairy chest.
Lucas: “When’d Steve get so hairy?”
Dustin: “Right? I keep telling him he needs to tame that jungle, but he claims the ladies dig it.”
And with that Max snatches the binoculars and has a reaaallly long look.
Personally, I think it’s about time. I’m not suggesting we bring back the Tom Selleck style wilderness, but the plastic pre-pubescent chests of Calvin Klein ads of the 90s, and more recently Love Island, are surely reaching saturation point? In the 80s, hairy chests were a sign of virility and manliness, our heroes were hairy. Now we have a new hero, skinny jeans are out and mullets are in, as all things 80s and 90s are back. Harry Styles has already been seen sporting a smattering of chest hair at Coachella 2022. As trends go… stranger things have happened.
Such is the power of a cult hit series to influence popular culture, no wonder product placement is such big news.
Killer product placements are turning the advertising world upside down
One criticism that has been made of Stranger Things is its overt use of product placement.
The latest series has featured countless consumer brands, from the Sony Walkman, to Dungeons & Dragons, Jif Peanut butter, Lacoste and that Levi’s denim vest. The Product Placement Blog, which tracks brands on TV shows, spotted more than 140 products featured during the first seven episodes of Stranger Things 4.
Coca-cola has been there since the start, when we saw the main character Eleven trying to crush a can of Coca-cola with her mind in series 1. The brand continues its dominance in series 4, when she uses the iconic glass coke bottle for spin-the-bottle.
To capitalise further, Coca‑Cola and Netflix partnered to launch a Stranger Things-themed pop-up arcade in Shoreditch on the Eleven(th) of July, 2019. The first 800 visitors to the hidden upside-down world arcade were given a limited-edition Coca Cola x Stranger Things upside down can. One can only wonder why they didn’t go for mass release? 60% of people feel more positive about brands they recognise in films, according to BrandonGaille.
A skillful product placement taps into the positive emotions a consumer has for a TV or film franchise, and transfers them to a product. If a brand shares a consumer’s passion, they’ll appear relatable, they’ll capture consumers’ attention, ride a zeitgeist, and reap the rewards.
‘Stranger Things 4’ product visibility is worth up to $25 million for Coke, Jif and other brands – According to MarketWatch.
Who wants to watch adverts any more?
Product placement has become more prevalent with the advent of streaming services. Traditional advertisements are becoming less effective, because people don’t want to spend their time sitting through them. Now viewers can filter them, fast-forward and even block adverts completely. So today, brands have to be more clever about how they get their products out to their audiences. A well-placed product reaches consumers in a way that adverts can’t. Some products, like CBD, can still be shown in TV and film even though they’ve been banned in advertisements.
Product placement is organic and influential, because people pay attention to the TV shows and movies they love.
It’s why back in 1999, BMW chose to launch their latest Z8 on the James Bond film The World Is Not Enough. Knowing the audiences it would reach and the attention it would garner. It featured for a full 14 minutes before being chopped in half by a helicopter. And brands continue to go to great lengths to feature their products on platforms as big as Bond, as it can be a much more effective form of marketing.
There are other benefits too:
- It can show how a product can be enjoyed in real life which boosts a brand’s authenticity.
- It can create loyalty, through association.
- It can live on for a long time, with a potentially unlimited audience.
- It can speak to the unconscious, influencing us to think more positively about a brand.
- It can become viral, especially on social media.
Product placement can be utilised in gaming, film, tv, social media, music, and endorsed by actors, models and influencers, but it can be expensive and it’s hard to measure efficiency.
There’s always a risk factor. If done badly, poor product placement can annoy the target audience, resulting in backlash and any negative associations will most likely be transferred to your brand. Peloton fell foul of product placement in the latest Sex And The City series. Following the release of the first episode in which Big dies after a sweaty Peloton session, their stock prices dropped by 11.3%, and prompted them to do some much needed damage control with a well-timed follow up advert with Ryan Reynolds.
However, the right product in the right place can vastly improve brand awareness in a way that few other marketing tactics can today.