The Branding of Stranger Things

July 18th, 2019

Image © Netflix

I recently had the opportunity to binge-watch Season 3 of Stranger Things on Netflix and spoiler alert – it doesn’t disappoint. (Note: I will keep this spoiler-free in case you haven’t had the chance to get through the full season yet.) But I would like to discuss the branding and product placement that was rampant throughout the show.

In this season, it seemed like in almost every shot, there was some type of product placement happening on screen. Burger King, Gap, 7-11, Coca-Cola, Cadillac and Chevrolet were all very big players and brands like Adidas, Skittles, KitKat and Reese’s Pieces were also quite visible. While this can be great for advertisers (attaching themselves to a popular show), it can also become a little annoying to the viewer when it is done as often as it was in this season.

Using real products offers a sense of authenticity to the viewer, making it easier for the viewer to connect with that character because they’re using something that they use themselves. It’s not like Stranger Things is the first TV franchise to do this. Seinfeld did this frequently (especially with cereals in Jerry’s apartment), but it was at a level that was nowhere near Stranger Things. Other shows like How I Met Your Mother, used fake products as seen in the below image from the show.

Neil Patrick Harris in How I Met Your Mother using a
look-a-like Apple laptop and drinking not a Pepsi.

Other shows, like It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia, have deals in place with companies that help fund production of the show, like they do with Coors as seen below.

But back to Stranger Things. What seemed to bother me the most about the level of product placement was the number of promotional tie-ins outside of the show. Advertisers know that this is a hot franchise with a lot of eyeballs and interest, so they wanted to take advantage of that to promote their brands.

  • Burger King has an upside-down Whopper. Literally, just a Whopper turned upside down.
  • Coca-Cola is doing a release of the failed 80’s product, “New Coke”.
  • Baskin Robbins has Stranger Things themed sundaes.
  • H&M has a line of apparel with Stranger Things branding.
  • Nike has a line of shoes out that play off the colors of the fictional “Hawkins High School” colors.

The list goes on. My point is, like with anything, moderation is key. I’m not saying there should be a limit on advertising dollars a show can take in, it helps pay the bills and make a show better. But, there should be some mindfulness when it comes to how much you are doing with product placement. Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to go buy some Skittles, get a Whopper, wash it down with some New Coke, and head over to Baskin Robbins for dessert while I online shop for some new Nikes.

Max (Sadie Sink) is displaying how I felt about all the product placement.