Are you still “Running Up That Hill” like the rest of us? With it being all over the internet and daily conversations, most people have heard about the Stranger Things season four release this past summer.
After a two-year gap between seasons, the show still managed to be wildly successful. The cast and crew of season four was awarded five Emmy’s and shattered streaming records for Netflix. Songs such as “Running Up That Hill” by Kate Bush and “Master of Puppets” by Metallica soared to the top of the charts after their feature in the show.
Sure, the show is incredible. The acting is top-notch and the soundtrack has cross-generational powers. What many people do not think about though, is the master marketing and public relations done on this project. The Stranger Things team really outdid themselves, and I personally was fascinated by their work.
Before the release, Netflix ran “experiential activations” all around the world. In New York City, the Empire State Building was host to the Stranger Things cast and the location of a light show experience the night of the season premiere. The cast also made a viral TikTok with the Empire State Building’s account, which has over 3.8 Million views to-date. In Australia, a replica of an “Upside Down Rift” from the show was built overnight on Australias’ Bondi Beach. Other similar “rifts” appeared across the world in Poland, Saudi Arabia, Sweden, the United Kingdom, Spain, Italy and more.
After the premier, the Stranger Things social media ran very smoothly. Not only do they have an incredible number of viral reels on Instagram — some with over 12 Million views — but they ran a campaign that catered to the “nerds who are paying attention.” The account posted puzzles across their social media platforms for fans to solve themselves, much like the cast does in the show. This appealed to the Stranger Things audience in a way that took advantage of their obsession with the show and allowed them to apply it in real life.
Additionally, the cast made many appearances on talk shows. Many of the crew were featured on Jimmy Fallon’s The Tonight Show, which has been a recurring public relations technique utilized in past seasons. The cast even did a rap recap of season three with Fallon, with over 6 million views to date. The recap video turned the gap between seasons into a joke that fans can relate to, while also providing a useful tool to remember what happened in previous seasons.
Another consideration of what PR strategies contributed to Stranger Things season four’s success is the way the show was released. Typically, Netflix shows are released season by season, allowing for viewers to binge-watch shows. However, Stranger Things season four was unusually long, with each episode running over an hour long. Because of this, the Duffer brothers decided to split the season into two volumes. The release of these volumes was methodically planned. The second volume could not be too long after volume one or fans would lose interest, but they also needed interest to build after the volume one cliffhanger. The two-part release was a success, and allowed fans to fully appreciate each episode, even with the extra length.
Overall, the Stranger Things team did an incredible job. The campaigns on the newest season were so creative and they turned tough situations into innovative marketing ideas. The real question is, how can they top this in season five?
Blair Thornton is a senior at Samford University who is passionate about communications, especially in the music and entertainment industry. As a public relations practitioner, she wants to help businesses and their audiences connect in new ways while building mutual trust and lasting relationships.