Topshop’s Oxford Street flagship in London was transformed for four days last weekend to promote its partnership with Netflix around the second season of hit show Stranger Things. GDR Innovation Researchers Charlie Lloyd and Harriet Cox paid a visit to the store to see how Topshop was celebrating the return of the 80s nostalgia-fest.
One of the things that differentiates Netflix from traditional television channels is the way it ‘drops’ every episode of its original series in one go. As a result, the platform is able to drum up a huge amount of excitement around the release of its most popular shows. In the case of Stranger Things – Netflix’ supernatural 80s thriller following a young group of friends alla It or The Goonies – the excitement level rose to somewhere near hysteria.
It was an incredibly interesting proposition, then, to see how Topshop and Netflix would go about promoting their partnership and the line of Stranger Things clothing that launched just ahead of the series’ release.
In short, they really went to town. Throughout the sprawling five-floor flagship, different parts of Hawkins, the fictional Indiana town in which Stranger Things is set, was brought to life. The store’s front windows were used to full effect, recreating the living room of some of the main characters. Another part of the front display was accessible to the public, who could visit the Hawkins lab to test their telekinetic powers in front of London’s shopping public.
Elsewhere was an arcade where customers could play Pac-Man while experiencing the ‘Upside Down’, the show’s spooky alternate reality, as well as some high school lockers that paid tribute to one of the show’s deceased characters and a tree house that hosted several key scenes in the show’s first series.
The show’s eerie electronic soundtrack was played throughout the store, adding another sensory layer to the store takeover. Starting at 8am on the Friday morning, the store also hosted a private screening of the entire series for a handful of lucky Topshop customers.
The activity wasn’t limited to in-store, the Topshop website underwent a temporary makeover, too. The Topshop logo was replaced with the colour and typography of Stranger Things’ branding, and users could opt to ‘strangify’ the site, which turned all the imagery upside down. The website also hosted various interviews with cast members and a section where users could shop the Stranger Things look, pairing the official merchandise with Topshop’s other 80s-inspired offerings.
Judging by the number of shoppers in-store engaging with the different elements of the activation, the takeover was a resounding success from Topshop’s perspective. For Netflix, it’s yet another example of the innovative ways in which it promotes its series.
Legacy TV channels often promote their shows heavily through ad spots on their own channels. Netflix, which doesn’t carry any advertising on its platform, can’t do that. Instead, it consistently promotes its shows in new and exciting ways that reflect its brand identity as a millennial platform disrupting the TV industry.
Beyond the Topshop partnership, a handful of Netflix’ other activities promoting Stranger Things show the breadth and ingenuity of Netflix’ marketing. Working with Snapchat, a sponsored lens was created that allowed users to walk through the set, the most advanced Snapchat Lens to date. On Spotify, users listening to the Stranger Things soundtrack last week would find that after a few seconds the platform would go dark and become overlaid with a shining torch and floating ash.
And in the US, billboards in LA and New York advertised a mysterious corporation called Hawkins Power and Light. They included a working toll-free number that when dialled, would launch run-of-the-mill hold music and menu directions before a sinister crackling sound disrupted the call.
From branded cannabis to pop-up hotels for binge-watching, Netflix has a varied and exciting arsenal of millennial-focused marketing campaigns that reflects and perpetuates how it is different from its competitors. We have no idea what will be coming next from them, but we look forward to finding out.