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By John McCarthy, Opinion editor

May 21, 2019 | 4 min read

Global drinks giant Coca-Cola has taken an irreverent reference to a dark time in its history in partnership with Netflix.

Partnering with the period thriller, Stranger Things, Coca-Cola has reminisced about the launch of ‘New Coke’ – its failed effort to launch a new recipe in 1985. The doomed brew lasted only 79 days before being pulled after consumer revolt.

Show directors, the Duffer Bros, have created a cheesy ‘New Coke’ spot featuring the show’s stars in a bold branded teaser for the launch of season three. The ad will run in cinemas in the US from 24 May and is available globally on YouTube.

On the product front, limited edition cans of New Coke are being made available, co-branded with Stranger Things references. Furthermore, in select cities, New Coke will be purchasable via an ‘upside-down’ Stranger Things-inspired vending machine.

Barry Smyth, head of global partner marketing, Netflix, said: “The partnership with Coke gives Netflix the opportunity to reach a massive audience via one of the most recognizable brands in the world in a deeply authentic way.

"It also gives Stranger Things fans the chance to expand their engagement with the show into their lives like never before.”

Stuart Kronauge, president of Coca-Cola North America's sparkling business, said: “One thing that makes Stranger Things so special is its commitment to authentically portraying the decade in which the show takes place.

“When we heard that Season Three would be set in the summer of 1985 and they wanted to integrate New Coke, we knew we had an opportunity to revisit that time period in a fun and unexpected way that would also allow us to be part of one of this year’s most anticipated pop culture moments.”

It is not Coca-Cola’s first large scale TV integration. It was an integral component in the finale of Mad Men, which retold the creation of its iconic 1971 ad, ‘Hilltop’.

Ben Hordell, partner at full service digital ad agency DXagency, said: "Nostalgia is a frequently used strategy in marketing as brands try to get consumers to reminisce about the good old days where today’s problems didn’t exist, and our memories are full of the good times and brands that were a part of those times. By tapping into nostalgia, brands can unlock emotions and memories and associate those positive feelings with their brand and build faster emotional connections with their target consumer. At its core, Stranger Things does just that.

"The show’s incredible design and cinematography takes millennials and xennials back to their childhood through music, clothing, video games, trapper keepers, walkie-talkies, landlines and bicycles. It’s pure joy (minus the upside down and some weird scientific testing). This setting creates a great opportunity for Coke and the timing of the show being set in 1985 dovetails nicely to the New Coke – a debacle turned cultural phenomenon. In addition to the purity and innocence of the show, another benefit to the customer experience off Stranger Things is the platform, Netflix. Netflix presents this high-end content with no advertising.

"That being said it isn’t without risk. People like their Netflix ad free, just like they liked their Coca-Cola classic. Although there are show integrations that are seamless and happen without much early fanfare, promoting this so early and having such conversation about the partnership before the launch rather than as an organic fan discovery could backfire, looking too much like a paid placement (even though it’s not) and less like the fans were impressed at the authenticity of the show."

New Coke
Stranger Things Coca-Cola Advertising

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