Ep 130 | Marketing Lessons from Stranger Things

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I recently just finished the first three seasons of the Stranger Things series and now waiting for the fourth season in 2022. Whether you’re a fan or not, the series has some key marketing lessons I learned that I’m going to share with you. Here are the five things that are great examples of marketing in Stranger Things and lessons we can learn from the cast

What you will learn:

Trusting your gut
There’s no overnight success
Maintaining a great level of communication
There’s light at the end of the tunnel

Want to skip ahead? Here are some key takeaways

[03:35] Trusting your gut. Joyce believes Will is not dead even when everyone tells her that he’s dead. You may have a very different approach that nobody will believe you. However, as long as you feel deep in your gut that you’re going down the right path, it usually turns out so well in the end.
[06:25] There’s no overnight success. We see Eleven being depicted often as a hero and saving the day in most episodes. But prior to this, she went through trauma and challenges. Similarly, the organizations are further ahead and seem to get lucky with everything. But things didn’t start from there. There was a time when they were also struggling.
[08:48] Walkie Talkies to communicate throughout the season. This is a reminder to maintain a great level of communication. Keep your messages simple and clear.
[12:58] Periods when we have superpowers and periods when we don’t. This is a reminder that there are things we can’t control. But if we have the right plans and systems in place, then we can tackle anything.

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Full Transcript

[Sami Bedell-Mulhern] Hey there, welcome to another episode of the digital marketing therapy podcast. Sami here, your host. So glad you're joining me today for this episode. I don't know if you've watched Stranger Things, and I know I'm a little late to the game. My daughter watched it this summer. All three seasons and decided that she wanted to watch it again with me so that we could talk about it and have a conversation about it. So I recently just finished the first three seasons of Stranger Things. And now we are waiting till 2022, not so patiently to watch the next season. Do I have any other Stranger fan things? Or Stranger Things fans out there? I mean, come on, let me know. So as I started thinking about the show, and matching it up with some marketing things, I thought, you know, there's a few lessons that we can learn from Stranger Things to bring them into our marketing that might make you think about things that are a little different perspective. Now, if you haven't watched Stranger Things, that's okay, you'll still get some value from this episode. 

And if you haven't caught up to season three, although I can't believe that there's anybody that's further behind than me. But if you haven't, I will try not to do any spoilers, I think the stuff that I'm talking about is broad enough and specific enough, that it won't be specific, so that, you know, general themes throughout the show that it shouldn't ruin anything for you. And I will try if I feel like I'm going to say something that's a spoiler to let you know. But I'm excited about this episode, because I just think it's going to be a kind of a fun way to talk about marketing.

 So today, we're going to talk about five different things that I think are great examples of marketing in Stranger Things and lessons we can learn from the cast and the story. But before we get into it, this episode is brought to you by our digital marketing therapy sessions. Listen, we're getting down to the wire, the end of 2021 is almost here. And I'm very excited about 2022. And I hope that you have your plans in place, and you know what you've got coming up and you're ready to go. But if you don't, or if you want some help putting together some specific tasks to get done, please head on over to thefirst click.net/officehours, book some time with me, so that we can go through your plan so that you are ready to go when 2022 when we come back from New Year's, you're ready to hit the ground running, you and your team know exactly what you're doing. And you're going to make 2022 the best and most impactful year. 

So again, thefirstclick.net/officehours, I almost said forward slash 2020 to thefirstclick.net/office hours. But for now, let's get into the episode. 

 [INTRO] You're listening to the digital marketing therapy podcast. I'm your host, Sami Bedell-Mulhern. And each week, I bring you tips from myself and other experts, as well as hot seats with small business owners and entrepreneurs to demystify digital marketing and get you on your way to generating more leads and growing your business.

[Body] So why my daughter wanted to watch Stranger Things with me I will never have an understanding because I am terrified of scary things. And so I was really nervous about watching it with her. But it's a pretty good story and not quite as scary. There's some episodes that are a little off the wall, but not quite as scary as I expected. So I really enjoyed it. And like I said, we're very excited about season four. But the first lesson that I think Stranger Things teaches us is to trust your gut. 

In Season One, when Will goes missing in the beginning of the season. Joyce, his mother, believes that he is not dead, even when everyone is telling him that he's dead. I hope this isn't a spoiler. But you know, it's in season one at the very beginning. So something happens and she starts to realize that she can communicate with him. When she has all these lights hung up. So she hangs up these lights all over her house and figures out a way to communicate with him. So that you know she can try to find him.

Everyone thinks she's crazy for this. They think she's nuts. They think oh my gosh, how do you think you can communicate with your son? You know he's dead. And why do you think that energy lights lighting up is going to help you communicate, but she sticks to her guns and it ends up eventually working out. Now what does this teach us about our marketing? So when it comes to how we want to promote and grow and scale and communicate within our organizations? Yes, of course there's some standard core practices but I also feel like sticking to your guns and understanding like you know, maybe you are I'm going to do things a little bit differently than what other organizations are doing. Or maybe you have a different method or process. What is it that makes you unique, and what in your gut is telling you that you are going down the right path. You know, more than likely, it'll end up being awesome. Sometimes it doesn't. 

But no matter what you're learning something and you're really furthering and staying true to your mission. A lot of times, when we get a large donation or fund start to get less, it becomes a little bit stressful, and we try to just change the way we do things in order to, you know, appease the masses, and just get money in the door. So I want to encourage you to focus on what you started this organization for, or why you started working for this organization, the mission and the value for that, but also just, you know, just sticking to your gut and really trusting that, you know, as long as you're, you know, asking for the support, you've got the resources, you're working through all the things like really trust your gut when it comes to the decisions that you're making. And the way that you're supporting the community that you support. Just like Joyce did in Stranger Things, even though people thought she was crazy. She knew in her heart that she was doing the right thing, and she kept going with it. 

So that is lesson number one. The second lesson that I want to talk about is 11. Now, we all love the character 11, Millie Bobby Brown's incredible, I love, I love 11, and she is the character in the show that has superpowers. And you know, she can move things, she can find people, she just has a lot of ability to, you know, she's often the hero and saves the day in a lot of these episodes. Now, the lesson we can learn from her is this, we can often see organizations that are farther ahead than us or seem to just get lucky with everything. They never have any funding problems. They always have a lot of people show up to their fundraising events, you know, they have the support of all of the local people in our organization, in our communities, whatever it is, right? those organizations that seem to have it all, they seem to have this superpower, they seem to be amazing. Now, if we learned anything from Stranger Things, 11 didn't have an easy path, right? She went through a lot of trauma, she went through a lot of things that most of us, you know, would be crippled by, and she's still here. And so when you see these organizations, and these people that seem to have it all that seem to have this superpower, remember that there was a time when they probably didn't, when they were struggling maybe just like you are when they were new, and they were trying to grow or when they hit that kind of plateau and working towards their next kind of growth area. And there are no overnight successes, and there are no organs, there is not an organization that just kind of woke up and has it all, even if it feels like they do. So remember to keep working at it. Remember, we all did, we've all had to go through those things, we're all and we will go through them again, right, there's going to be different phases of our growth. And things might go great for a period of time, and then we may need to readjust some strategies, the climate might change, we might need to add another layer of support, whatever that looks like, we might all of a sudden add more people. So then that changes our allocation of resources. 

So just keep in mind that we all have superpowers, we're all working towards fulfilling amazing missions. And even if we see some people out there that seem to have it all. They had periods of time when they were struggling as well. Okay, number three. So the boys in Stranger Things have these amazing walkie talkies that they use to communicate all the time. And they have their code words, they have conversations, they talk all the time. You know, this happens throughout all of the seasons.

And there's several times throughout the season as well, where they can't reach each other. And they're struggling and they're trying to solve these problems and are trying to move through different things and they just can't get to each other and they're frustrated and stressed out. And you know, eventually it all ends up working out. But it's just a great reminder in our marketing to maintain a great level of communication. Communication is key, not even just in marketing and all things functioning. But here's what I want to bring up specifically, when it comes to communicating with your donors with your audience, whether it's a brand awareness campaign, a donor campaign, you're calling for volunteers in kind donations, whatever it might be.

Remember to keep your message simple and remember to keep your communication clear, right when they're trying to get a hold of each other. It's for a very specific reason and they're using really short words and they're saying, You know why? Now I can't remember what the term is. But they have a term for like, hey, it's an emergency, right? So keeping it simple and keeping it clear and then feeling, you might feel like you're repeating yourself a lot. But I promise you, you're not, you're not repeating yourself enough. And make sure that everybody really knows the core of what you're doing. And the core of what you're asking for, communicate, communicate, communicate. And when communication breaks down, that's a good opportunity to take a step back and figure out what happened. How do we fix this so that it doesn't happen again? Do we need to change the channels that we're communicating on? What does that look like?

And then just keep that conversation going all the time, you know, I love to say, you know, you're, when you're getting sick of saying the same messaging over and over and over again, that's really just when people are starting to hear it for the first time. So it's a noisy world out there, we have to keep putting it out there over and over and over again. Okay, we've got two more. So the next one is the upside down. So the upside down is kind of like a parallel universe and Stranger Things, right. So it looks the same, but it's kind of got this ashy gray, you know, dark tone and, and that's where the demogorgon lives. And that's where all of that happened. And so the lesson we can learn from this is, you know, you may show up, and you may think it all looks the same, but then all of a sudden, things kind of flipped on their head, right? It's not the same place that you thought it was. So this could be, you know, a grant that you've had, and you've gotten year over year, and then all of a sudden, you don't get it again. And you're thinking, Oh, well, this is weird, like, What happened there? Or it could be you know, all of a sudden, COVID happened in the event that you had you couldn't do again, right? Like it's the same world we're living in, but it looks completely different. And COVID did this for a lot of us. So it's all about how do we persevere and find our way out of it? Right? Like, how did they find their way out of the upside down so that they could continue to fight and continue to bring their reality back to the way that it was?

So don't get stuck in the upside down? Take a breath, reflect, figure out what things can you change, what things need to stay the same? regroup with your team when something like that happens, and then take a collective step forward? together? This is kind of like setting your plan B in motion, or what's your emergency contingency plan, right? What do you do? What plans do you have in place, when things don't go quite right? You know, you have a situation, a PR nightmare, or something that just doesn't seem to go the way that we want it to. And what's your plan B that you have placed in place, and that's what we can learn from the upside down. And the last lesson is kind of similar to when we talk about the periods when we have our superpower. And when we don't, but there's several times where, you know, they think they've got the demogorgon all figured out, they closed the gate, and then all of a sudden, the gates opening again, and they're, they're back or whatever. And so it's kind of one of those reminders that there are things that we can't control.

 And so we think we've gotten it done, and we think we've completed the activity, we we think we've hit our goal, we think we've gotten all of the silent auction items we need for our event, we think that we've gotten old done, and then we turn around and all of a sudden demogorgon is right in our face again. And we're like, oh crap, now I got to go back. And I got to do this. And I got to do that. And it can feel very frustrating. And so I think it's just again, similar to the upside down and similar to the superpower, remembering that there's light at the end of the tunnel. And if we have the right plans in place, the right systems in place, then we can tackle anything, right? The kids have lots of ideas for how they can tackle the demo. gorgons. Sometimes it works. Sometimes it works better than others. But the point is, if you keep trying and when adversity kind of comes at you. 

Because you can feel comfortable that you have backup plans and you have systems and you have all of these things in place, you know that you can still take on the bad guy or the issue that's coming up. And you can make action, take action pivot, do whatever you need to do in order to continue to fulfill your mission. So those are five lessons that we can learn from watching Stranger Things. I hope that when you watch it, maybe Whoa, look at it with a different lens now or maybe not. But I just thought this was kind of a fun way to think about it. So with that, I hope that you enjoyed this episode. Make sure you subscribe, wherever you listen, we've got some great things and changes coming up before our podcast in 2022. And so I can't wait for you guys to join us there, but for now, I'll see you in the next one.


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