Stranger Things counts down to Season 4 with brand collaborations

Netflix teamed with M·A·C Cosmetics, Dominos and Doritos to promote the hit show.

a graphic of 4 people sitting around a table

The new season of Stranger Things is coming May 27. But before that, fans can interact with the show while ordering pizza, putting on makeup and buying Doritos.

As the fourth season of the hit streaming sci-fi-horror drama, approaches, Netflix is rolling out a series of brand collaborations to draw the public's attention. But it's not just putting the Stranger Things name on products. It's creating new ways to interact with the show, and its characters.

Let’s take a look at the recent drops:

Mind ordering with Domino’s

A mind ordering logo in stranger things font and hand holding a phone.

(Image: Domino's)

Domino’s and Netflix went into the lab to create a new app.

The new Mind Ordering app is designed to place subjects inside Hawkins National Lab, the secretive government lab from the show. In this immersive environment, they can explore the lab and discover the Noid or Demogorgon along the way.

But users can really turn it up to Eleven by ordering pizza without even pressing a button. Thanks to facial recognition and eye-tracking technology, users can make gestures and expressions to place a Domino’s order. Taking things one step further into the show, a pizza ordered with the app is delivered in a retro Domino’s box.

Domino’s and Netflix also rolled out a landing page for the app, complete with a backstory video featuring Dustin and Lucas.

M·A·C X Stranger Things

MAC cosmetics

(Photo: M·A·C Cosmetics)

Stranger Things now has its own makeup collection thanks to a collab with the beauty brand M·A·C Cosmetics.

Though all roads lead to ‘80s looks for this collab, it has a choose-your-own-adventure feel. Users can pick between the human world and the upside down world, or choose between the Hawkins Class of 1986 palette and the Void Eye Palette. It also has shades specific to the show. M·A·C’s famous Lipglass has Eerie El, while powder blush offers a shade called Friends Don’t Lie.

“Coming of age in a small town in the 80s, I completely relate to the vibe and characters of Stranger Things,” Fatima Thomas, M·A·C senior artist, said in a news release. “This collaboration perfectly captures the essence of the era: spirited, adventurous and fun.”

The limited edition collection is available at Ulta Beauty, Ulta’s website, and M·A·C’s website.

A virtual concert with Doritos

charli XCX standing in a forest surrounded by TVs

(Photo: Doritos)

You’ve got the makeup and ordered a pizza. Now you’re ready to take in a virtual concert.

This tie-in with Doritos features activations on multiple levels. There’s limited edition packaging of Doritos and Doritos 3D Crunch that’s particular to Stranger Things. There’s also a limited edition flavor for the occasion. Dubbed Doritos 3D Crunch Three Cheese, it mixes cheddar, Monterey Jack and parmesan cheese.

But these bags are not merely a vessel for chips. They are also a portal through which fans can reserve a ticket for "Live From The Upside Down,” a virtual concert that is set to be held on June 23. It features 80s stars The GoGo’s, Soft Cell and Corey Heart performing their classic material from the era. Plus, one of the bands will perform with current pop icon Charlie XCX.

As with the Domino’s collab, this also has a backstory. Per Domino’s press release:

The story goes that back in 1986, a tour bus crashed near Hawkins, Ind., headed to Doritos Music Fest '86 – the greatest concert that never happened. The musicians disappeared into another dimension and the show was canceled… until now.

Stranger Things plant-based nuggets

a box of crazy crispy chick'n nuggets

(Photo: Skinny Butcher)

The plant-based trend in food can't be overlooked, even when it comes to streaming TV activations. Skinny Butcher rolled out a line of Stranger Things-themed plant-based nuggets ahead of the new season, making the vegan eats available at Walmart stores nationwide. It's a chance for the brand to tout its Crazy Crispy Chick'n Nuggets, which replace chicken with pea protein and a progressive vegetable fiber strain. It gives Stranger Things a place in the freezer section, and appeals to those who are opting for a meat alternative.

It's also a chance to bring noteriety to the brand itself, which is the result of a collaboration between former Garden Fresh Gourmet Vice Chairman Dave Zilko and the Los Angeles-based Golden West Food Group.

"No secret experiments were conducted here – just some ingenuity from the team at Golden West Food Group!" Zilko quipped in the announcement.

What’s the takeaway?

For one, Netflix is putting lots of marketing resources behind Stranger Things’ latest season. For another, its team is getting creative, and the teams at some big brands are right there with them, ready to do something new.

Going a level deeper, these collaborations show how marketing doesn't have to limit brands to a single category. A promotion for a streaming TV show is crossing into food and beauty. It’s bringing in tech, music and retail. Each individual partnership in turn offers a way for Stranger Things to reach a unique audience. After all, the Venn diagram overlap between the Doritos crowd and the Skinny Butcher crowd probably isn't too big. With each collaboration, Netflix in turn creates additional mediums where Stranger Things is represented, making it seem ubiquitous.

These collaborations also show brand strength for Stranger Things itself. To have the leeway to create these new experiences, a brand must already be recognizable enough to build around.

Stranger Things’ brand has a pair of elements, which play off each other. For one, it has recognizable characters and vocabulary that brands can have fun with. Zilko's quote was just one of many examples of cheeky comments in press releases for these collaborations.

The show is also highly associated with 80s nostalgia. This is present throughout these collaborations, with the vintage pizza box, mall-era makeup shades and, of course, the 80s bands playing at the virtual concert.

It’s this blend of the recognizable and the new that has driven success for Stranger Things to date.

Stranger Things’ marketing has gotten attention in its own right before with an interactive billboard, an off-menu Demogorgon Frappuccino at Starbucks and an unexpected boost for Eggo waffles. With collaborations that bring together other brands and interactive media, it continues to break new ground.

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