Building the ultimate fan experience
Experiences, merchandise and video games create additional avenues for world building around Netflix’s most fan-driven franchises, said Josh Simon, VP of consumer products at Netflix, particularly when a show is out of season. The third season of “Stranger Things” premiered in 2019, and a nearly three-year hiatus—the series faced production interruptions during the pandemic—meant that Netflix needed to be strategic in serving the show’s enthusiast fan base ahead of the fourth installment of the series.
In fall of 2020, Netflix unveiled its interactive Stranger Things: Drive Into Experience, which allowed fans to experience themed snapshots of Hawkins during an hour-long drive-thru performance staged in a 500,000-square-foot outdoor parking garage. The production ran for about seven months, which was extended due to demand, Simon said. This past fall, the company launched two retail pop-ups, and earlier this month, it introduced its new Stranger Things experience in New York, which allows fans to explore the Hawkins Plaza and Laboratory and even venture into the Upside Down, the perilous, demon-infested alternate dimension wreaking havoc on the fictional Indiana town central to the series.
Netflix’s retail locations “pretty much operated at capacity for the entire time that those stores were open,” Simon said. Starting this summer, Netflix is planning to roll out more of the retail pop-ups to other cities in the U.S., Europe, and eventually Latin America and Asia. Simon said Netflix is planning to similarly expand the “Stranger Things” experience. Its latest efforts include a virtual concert event slated for June 23 in collaboration with Doritos, which will feature performances by Charli XCX and ’80s rock icons.
“The fandom for the series doesn’t stop at the end of a season,” Simon said. “We think they’re really meaningful ways for fans to engage in-between seasons.”
In many ways, Netflix looks like it’s taking a cue from Disney’s marketing playbook. The Netflix Shop, which launched last year, capitalizes on dozens of popular titles to hawk everything from T-shirts to collectibles to products offered through collaborations with brands like Funko Pop! and even French luxury fashion house Balmain.
“Can anything be smarter than getting consumers to pay money to advertise your programs or your brand?” Frankel said. “It’s brilliant if you can get a million people to be wearing a T-shirt for one of your brands and make it hip and make it cool, and make money, or break even—or even lose a nickel on it!”
Collaborations with apparel brand Quiksilver and a beauty line with Mac Cosmetics naturally lent themselves to retail products outside of the series. Amy Forsythe, the makeup department head for “Stranger Things,” is also a Mac makeup artist. That organically led Netflix to develop two makeup lines with the brand, Simon said, one inspired by Hawkins High and another inspired by the Upside Down. Similarly, Simon said “Stranger Things” costume designer Amy Parris worked on a collaboration with Quiksilver for three years, leading to a line from the outfitter that will launch May 27.
“The Quiksilver team went really deep into their archives from the ’80s to help us connect to some authentically inspired apparel that actually comes to life as a wardrobe in the show. They even helped design one of the more iconic costumes for a new character who’s associated with a fictional brand called Surfer Boy Pizza,” said Simon. “At the same time, we took inspiration from the show to create a more modern, fashion-forward surfboard line with Quiksilver as well. For us, it really is about how we can more authentically connect storytelling to the products that we create.”