A 'Stranger Things' win for Schwinn

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What happens when you combine a critically acclaimed TV series, a children's bicycle and a heavy dose of nostalgia? Apparently, the dollars pedal in faster than a Demogorgon can snatch you. Earlier this month, Schwinn, the bike brand owned by Madison, Wisconsin-based Pacific Cycle, released an '80s-style limited-edition Stranger Things bike to build brand awareness and capitalize on the Netflix show's popularity.

"We are super into guerrilla marketing and are very opportunistic," says Milissa, Rick, senior director of marketing at Pacific Cycle. "We saw this was a winning opportunity." The company began working with Netflix last year on a licensing opportunity for a co-branded bike, based on the bikes frequently used by the young stars in the series. Rick notes that while the bikes on the show are not branded as Schwinns, they certainly appear similar to Schwinn's two-wheelers of that decade.

On June 3, Schwinn released a print ad for its new "Mike's Bike" in the Chicago Tribune that was styled to appear as if it had been published in the 80s. The brand then released an infomercial-type video evocative of the era encouraging consumers to dial an 800 number and order the bike. Orders were only received via phone, in keeping with the '80s theme. Those shoppers willing to brave wait times by dialing in their orders were rewarded with the $379 product. Schwinn's 500, limited-edition bikes sold out within one week.

The campaign blew past Rick's goals of 50 million impressions by generating more than 127 million total media impressions, 4 million of them on social. Over a 12-day period beginning from the first teased trailer on May 30, Schwinn saw a 16 percent increase in Instagram followers; it currently has around 30,000.

The effort was executed in-house by Rick's five-person team, who shot and produced the video. Rick says the company spent less than $15,000 on paid advertising for the campaign.

"A lot of our conversations and brand marketing focuses on hitting that family demo," explains Rick. "This allowed us to hit that pop culture with young teens and tweens so they would think, 'Wow, Schwinn is a pretty cool brand'."

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