Netflix’s Korean-language thriller “Squid Game” is on its way to becoming one of the streaming giant’s most-watched original series of all time and advertisers are taking notice, using the pop culture phenomenon as a vessel for their brand messaging.
The show isn’t even a month old and yet has attracted significant attention from marketers, particularly in the social media realm, all of whom are keen to capitalize on the show’s swift success and resonance with viewers.
For the uninitiated, “Squid Game” features a roster of competitors playing childhood games such as “Red Light, Green Light” and the dalgona challenge, a Korean game involving extracting shapes from a disc of melted sugar, for a nearly $40 million prize. The catch is, those who lose the games are killed.
It’s not the first time brands have gravitated toward hit Netflix originals: There was “Tiger King,” which brought a slew of brand tweets and fantasy collaborations; then “The Queen’s Gambit,” which triggered a wave of marketers embracing all things chess (not to mention a surge in sales of chess sets themselves); and of course “Stranger Things,” a popular series so nostalgia-tinged that it prompted Coca-Cola to revisit its disastrous “New Coke” launch of 1985.
While it remains to be seen just how far marketers will run with their “Squid Game” tie-ins—the show only debuted on Netflix just over three weeks ago—it has compelled audiences worldwide and appears poised to be a hit with brands as well. Unlike mainstream TV, Netflix doesn't offer brands the opportunity to run commercials, so marketers must look elsewhere and get creative to tap into the show's hit status.