When Stranger Things debuted in July 2016, it started somewhat of a cult following that eventually made it a hit as more people started to binge on the Netflix original series.
A nostalgic series that was reminiscent of the tween adventure classics Millennials grew up with, Stranger Things secured its place with the greats like Goonies, The Sandlot, and Karate Kid (not old enough, but I’ll even throw Super 8 in there). At the center of the popular franchise is a brand that was slowly being forgotten in the post-Super Size Me, health conscience America – Kellogg’s Eggo Frozen Waffles.
Eggo waffles hit the storytelling jackpot! Not only was it incorporated into a retro-style storyline, but it ingrained itself into popular culture. As a result, sales of the buttery, toasted treat skyrocketed.
What Eggo did in response was to change its image, taking audiences back to the 80s and leveraging the nostalgia that defined the series itself. Showcasing vintage ads and paying homage to the unique style of the era, Eggo plays up the fanfare and pulls at the heartstrings of childhood.
Just in their feed, you see that people respond to the classic ads boasting pretty high engagement compare to its other content attempts.
Even though the Eggo/Stranger Things phenomena fell in Kellogg’s lap, there are ways your brand can approach storytelling:
1. Your audience has a culture. Use it!
A culture-savvy brand is a winning brand because it connects on a more personal level considering the goals, values, beliefs, and desires of its audience. And your storyline needs to be authentic to that culture.
But let’s dive further into the word ‘culture.’ An old-school view of culture is one-dimensional, thinking that geography and ethnicity define cultural relevance. However, there are subcultures that cross all segment lines (geographic, psychographic, demographic, and behavioral). Think about groups (forgive my lack of PC language), categorized as Trekkies, gamers, and movie-buffs, and characteristics such as age, geography, and gender are overshadowed by a shared interest. There are even communities such as LGBTQA+ where life experience and inclusivity are above all else. Where you have to make sure you are using inclusive language and addressing community concerns and needs first.
With cultural branding you just have to be aware that you are walking a fine line, get their ideas and even the way you speak to them all wrong and you could be done for. CASE IN POINT: Pepsi-Kendall Jenner #fail, where a Caucasian upper-class girl tries to bring peace to the Black Lives Matters movement (need I say more…).
This leads me to my next point.
2. Listen up! Stay connected.
Social listening is imperative, giving you deeper insight into how your brand is perceived and gain invaluable insight. It is critical because popular culture and trends shift and you need to be a step ahead. Think of social listening as a way to be in tune with public and audience sentiment. In storytelling, you need to be aware of sentiment to adjust tone and messaging to reflect what people want and feel.
There are a variety of tools available to help you decipher what’s out there and cut through the noise – helping you not just evaluate your own branding, but how you stack up among competitors.
3. Total Anarchy. Be the anti-brand.
This may sound a bit extreme, but try not to be too brand flashy. There is an art to brand storytelling where you can’t push logo in the face of your audience, churning out content that is just used to sell and convert. People don’t follow brands, they follow beliefs, ideals, and experiences. This is the pinnacle of storytelling greatness on social media. It’s where all brands want to be, but often fail to achieve. Not even Eggo has been able to generate a following to brag about (14.6K). Vans Food, which is the lesser-known frozen waffle competitor has only a few thousand fewer followers on IG (14.1K).
Brands like Sephora are breaking the glass ceiling by incorporating incredible stories into the mix that don’t focus on brand, ironically enough. The trick is they are intentional, meaningful, and yes, a bit edgy. But that’s ok, they have tuned know the culture of their audience, are listening, and aren’t afraid to be an anti-brand. As a result, they have 19.7M followers on IG and over 1.2M subscribers to their YouTube Channel. To put that accomplishment into perspective consider global mega-brand such as Coca-Cola and McDonalds that have just 2M and 3M followers respectively.
Sephora We Belong to Something Beautiful
While not all brands get a lucky break quite like the likes of Eggo, there are ways to develop exceptional brand stories to stay in the minds of consumers and hopefully the mainstream.