MS4 Case Study: Stranger Things - Industry and Audience
• The series was first aired on Netflix on 15th
• There were only 8 episodes
• Written and directed by The Duffer Brothers
(Matt Duffer and Ross Duffer)
The Duffer Brothers
• The Duffer brothers began making films in
the third grade using a Hi8 video camera
that was a gift from their parents.
• They relocated to Orange, California to
study film at Chapman University's Dodge
College of Film and Media Arts, where
they graduated in 2007.
• After writing and/or directing a number of
short films, their script for the post-
apocalyptic horror film, Hidden, was
acquired by Warner Bros. Pictures in 2011.
• The brothers directed the film in 2012,
which was released in 2015.
• Director M. Night Shyamalan read the
script and hired them as writer/producers
on the Fox television series Wayward
After discussing the movie as a jumping-off point, the
brothers began talking about what Matt describes as "bizarre
experiments we had read about taking place in the Cold War,"
specifically Project MKUltra, a mind-control program the CIA
led from the Fifties through the Seventies.
That led them to placing the show in the 1983, a year before
the Cold-War–hysteria epic Red Dawn came out, and it
brought into focus the fantasy aspect of the story they'd
wanted to include.
"We wanted the supernatural element to be grounded in
science in some way," Matt says. "As ridiculous as it is, the
monster [in the alternate dimension] doesn't come from a
spiritual domain and it's not connected to any religion. It
made it scarier. I don't believe in ghosts, but I believe in aliens
and alternate dimensions.
Production and Distribution
• Produced by 21 Laps (TV and Film credits include
Night at the Museum)
• Original Netflix series, so paid for by them and
distributed by them exclusively
• Ranked as the most popular digital series in the
US only after the week after its release on Netflix
(3 x more viewings that OITNB)
In large part, the success of Stranger Things can be attributed to its
pacing and it's binge-ability — a quality characteristic of Netflix. In
its earlier iterations, the Duffer Brothers wanted Stranger Things
to be a film. It wasn't until meeting with Netflix that they could
decided not only their ideal format, but to also let their series play
out without being restricted to a standard 13 or 22 episode run.
• Matt [Duffer]: The cool thing about TV is you have a lot more
time. (But) you’re not stuck now with 22 episodes. It’s almost
impossible to tell a cinematic story when you have that many
Ross [Duffer]: This is almost really the first time that I can think of
in history that people are able to come up with a story, and
they’re able to go, how long should this be? Should this be six
hours? Should this be seven hours? Should this be 11 hours? And
Netflix is very good at not dictating how many episodes it should
• It’s unclear how much the first episode cost,
but we know (according to Duffer Brothers)
that the show had a low budget.
• Profit: Unknown. Because Netflix is paid via a
subscription rather than per program there
are no figures available yet. However, it is
clear that it has been hugely successful.
Most of the cast are largely unknown with the
exception of two star names:
Winona Ryder Matthew Modine
Think of as many different audience
groups as you can who might enjoy
Apply audience concepts:
• Uses and Gratifications etc
What aspects or elements of the series might be
appealing to each audience group you identify?
The marketing of the series used a variety of
methods to create visibility & word of mouth
Methods mixed above-the-line and below-the-
Targeted a range of potential audiences
• A 4-hour live steam on the Twitch app
• Twitch app is popular with gamers
• The stream featured gamers playing games in
the basement set of Stranger Things
• Netflix used Twitch to promote the smash hit
Stranger Things by arranging for a group of Twitch
influencers to stream from the 1980’s basement
set of the show.
• During a live broadcast, “our team of Influencers
played various games . . . in our 80’s-themed
basement set, Twitch chat voted on creepy things
to befall our unwitting victims—flying books,
flickering lights, doors that would creak open to
reveal sinister, singing, dead-eyed dolls only to
slam shut at random, ringing phones that would
jump off their cradles when you tried to touch
them, and more,” Twitch representatives said in a
Cinematic trailer released on Youtube on 9th June 2016
The first 8 minutes of Chapter 1 were also released on
Youtube on 14th July 2016
Also an interactive/virtual reality 360 degree video of the
basement set on 4th August 2016
What are the advantages of using Youtube to host such
Click the image for detailed info
• The series has its own official
Twitter, Facebook and Insta
• Features links to
streams, interviews and
other extra content
• Often shares Fan Art, memes
and gifs produced by
prosumers in the fan
• Social Media also enabled the fans to continue
to immerse themselves in the series through
• The Millennial generation now represents a
quarter of the U.S. population. This group also
has an annual buying power of more than
$200 billion, yet it's still one of the most
challenging generations for marketers to
• There’s a lot that can be taken away from the wild
success of Stranger Things and the nostalgic, or
“throwback,” products and entertainment that
have emerged over the past few years.
• A study conducted by the Journal of Consumer
Research discovered, people actually spend more
money when they are feeling nostalgic. Because
of this, there's been an increasingly popular trend
among smart brands to engage in what is now
called: 'nostalgia marketing'.
• Stranger Things lays the nostalgia factor on thick with
80s fashion and hairstyles, and harkens memories of a
time when kids actually went outside and rode bikes.
• The title sequence of Stranger Things captivated us
because it was captured in the same fashion as titles
from the 80s used to be captured. The font choice is
also distinctly 80s and shows how much attention was
paid to making the show feel authentic.
• But yet, despite these nostalgic, familiar feelings, the
series still feels original - which is why so many of us
couldn’t stop watching.
• The series revived a plethora of nostalgic
memories, especially of 80s movies such as
E.T. and Goonies, but with fantastically fresh
storytelling that instantly captivated millions
of viewers and turned the series into an
overnight cult classic.
Intertextual references to create a
sense of nostalgia
Click the image
Spielberg – ET was a
huge influence and the
originally wanted to set
the film by the coast as
a way to make reference
to Jaws – but the
budget didn’t allow this.
Stephen King -
Eleven has been
compared to Carrie
and the font in the
show’s titles clearly
reflect a homage to
the King of Horror
A girl with telekinetic power and who is also experimented on
Stand By Me / The Body
Both these 80s films include the scene where the group
of friends are walking along a train line whilst searching
for a friend.
Fandom and Stranger Things
• The series has a strong online fan base
• Fans often create negotiated readings of the text
• Fans as textual poachers – selecting part of the
text that appeal to them, and using these as the
basis of their ‘we-media’ products (prosumers)
• Fans essential in the marketing/promotional
process – their fan art etc shared by the Stranger
Things official social media accounts.
After the show's release....
• Important to keep audience
• Viral news report - released
online in November 2016
• Awards ceremony marketing
• Fan interpreted videos
Netflix + Merchandise
• Thanks to hordes of crazed "Stranger Things" fans, Netflix
is testing the idea of merchandise for the retro sci-fi hit, a
break from typical practice.
• Merchandise is a cash cow for media companies like
Disney, but it has never been part of the Netflix business.
• "Stranger Things" is unique for Netflix because the title is
free of any outside ownership complications, making
• Eleven’s favourite food are Eggo
• Kellogg’s Eggo was not product
placement in the first series.
• However, Eggo sales have increase
dramatically, and as such Kellogg’s
have jumped on the 80s band
wagon, by including one of their
80s adverts in the teaser trailer for
Season 2. This was launched at the
Eggo was quick
to capitalise on
love of “Stranger
Things” so made
in its National