Stranger Things can teach you a lot about how to build a marketing campaign. First of all, look at how effortlessly Stranger Things tugs at our nostalgia strings with vintage ads and clothes from the 1980s. The writers literally scoop up memorable retro ads from that era and build us an ice cream cone of sweet childhood memories. Even the logo for Stranger Things, that bold red serif font on a black background, conjures images of the original Dungeons & Dragons books, which are central to the plot of the show.
And guess what? Every good marketer does this. We build on the generations before us, and we harken on the deeply felt bittersweet traditions of childhood. That’s why the Coca-Cola Polar Bears at Christmas remind us of sweeter, simpler times. It’s why vintage ads always catch our eye. We remember the good old days.
Vintage Brand References in Stranger Things
Stranger Things takes their nostalgia a step further: they incorporate all of that vintage branding and sweet childhood simplicity into their storyline. Just hearing the sound of an old television jingle when Eleven turns on the TV suddenly makes me remember my own childhood in the 1980s. The kids sit down to a game of 1983 Expert Edition Dungeons & Dragons; they ride their bikes with giant headlights (a nod to ET); they eat Eggo Waffles; they dress up like Ghostbusters. This isn’t just good storytelling; it’s actually benefiting from branding built by companies decades ago. It stands on the backs of giants.
And because it’s all so familiar, it transports me back to that time. I’m not just watching these kids, I’m identifying with their childhood – that’s good storytelling.
So enthralled am I by the magic of Stranger Things, I wanted to dig deeper into what we can learn about digital marketing from the story and characters in the show. It turns out, for a time without digital marketing, it can still teach us quite a lot about Google, SEO, and life.
1. Friends Don’t Lie
Eleven tells it like it is, so likewise, SEO Masters shouldn’t utilize dark magic and trickery (Black Hat SEO) to lie to Google and try to trick the Googlebots into ranking their site well. Google is clever, and eventually, it’ll catch you keyword stuffing and building phony link chains. If you want Google to rank you, you should be Google’s friend. Tell the truth.
So how do you tell Google the truth?
Let’s think of Eleven as Google. Just like Google, she knows how to find things. She’s good at searching through the upside-down — the internet.
But in season one, Eleven had limited language skills. Her friends communicated to her using simple keywords to signal what they needed.
Likewise, you have to use words Google understands when you write your content. If you’re running a landscaping company, you may realize the correct term is “Irrigation Winterization,” but your customers are probably just searching for “Sprinkler Shut Off.” You need to use words Google understands and that clients would search for. This takes a little keyword research.
2. If You Want to be Seen, Be Flashy
When Will Byers wanted to be found, he made a scene. He sang loudly; he lit up Christmas lights; he screamed through walls. Those Christmas lights are one of the most memorable motifs of Stranger Things.
So if you need to be found in the upside-down, you need to make your website dazzle. Google recognizes great content, dazzling SEO, multimedia pages, use of voice search, and using new technology and design. Creating this great content, especially if you bolster it through social media, amplifies your presence and helps Eleven (Google) to find you in the upside-down.
So make music, design animations, write creative content — and then reach out through social media. Hopefully, Eleven will find you and save you.
3. Level Up Your Digital Psychokinesis
If Stranger Things taught us anything, it’s to rely on your team. If you’re a healer, don’t cast Fireball – cast Protect. Otherwise, you spend the rest of the season trapped with a Demogorgon.
But when you combine your strengths:
- Content Sorceror,
- Link Building Barbarian,
- Social Media Bard,
- Technical SEO Wizard,
- Web Design Warrior, and
- Analytics Zoomer.
You now have a D&D party that can build an interconnected strategy.
Bringing this back to a real-world example:
If your Content Sorceror publishes a creative article but has no idea how to build links or share on social, how will it be found? Or if your Technical SEO Wizard casts a great optimization spell, but the page they cover is a boring or uncreative blog, it may rank on Google, but never convert.
It’s only when the team works together that your digital marketing strategy can really be effective — i.e. don’t split the party.
4. Get the Wrist Rocket Out
You don’t have to take down the Demogorgon with nothing but a slingshot. There are a ton of tools to help you properly analyze your situation in the upside-down. Google Analytics will help you see what’s working and what’s not, which provides valuable data as to how to build a strategy for moving forward. Search Console and all kinds of WordPress plugins work like magic spells to help you navigate and create a dungeon map so that you can navigate the upside-down.
5. “Mornings are for Coffee and Contemplation”
When your brain is just fried, take a break. Go for a walk around the building, sip a cup of coffee, and do something to recharge your creativity. It’ll be hard to find your way through the upside-down unless you take a break every now and then.