You’ve heard it a million times before, but we’ll say it again – Squid Game has changed the world.
This series made us reconsider what going “viral” means, especially in the world of marketing and branding. Most of the show’s success is organic, word-of-mouth, critics reviews, and reactions from the viewers all over social media. The show also offered brands an opportunity to join the conversation and implement bits of it into their strategy by being relatable. Be it memes, ads, or social media posts — brands managed to use Squid Game to their own advantage.
But how did they do it? And how can brands take advantage of similar opportunities in the future?
Without further ado, let’s look at what the “Squid Game effect" is, how it affected brands, and how you can implement the effect of any viral show in your marketing & brand strategy. As a bonus, we’ve included some tips on how you can grow your brand using these trends.
You’ve Been Living in a Cave and Don’t Know What Squid Game Is?
Well, it can happen — and we don’t judge you here. Remember when Jared Leto went on a silent retreat just before the COVID-19 lockdown and came back to see the world shutdown? If you managed to miss (or purposely avoided) Squid Game, this one's for you. No spoilers ahead.
Squid Game is a Korean Netflix show where over 400 people, low on cash, get a strange invitation to compete in children's games. Accepting the invite, players need to survive in order to win the ₩45.6 billion prize.
The “Squid Game Effect" on Brands
What is the "Squid Game effect"?
Netflix’s most-watched show not only won over viewers and social media users, but global brands, too. In the weeks following the show’s release, brands’ social media became overloaded with references to the show. This helped get consumers’ attention focused on these brands, which increased brand awareness and usage.
Be it product placement, or just using themes from the show in marketing, brands have succeeded in grabbing the attention of consumers. Here are a few examples of how Squid Game helped brands grow.
1. Vans Slip-On Shoes - Luck Was on Their Side
Vans doesn’t need any help selling its shoes — nevertheless, the impact product placement had on the brand was phenomenal, as the white slip-ons players wear in Squid Game are from Vans.
The brand saw an increase of over 7,800% in sales since the show launched. It certainly helped that the show launched around Halloween and inspired millions of costume lovers to dress as their favorite characters.
Image Source: Google
2. Relief - Jumping on a Trend
You don’t have to have been featured in the show to benefit from the Squid Game effect — just jumping on the bandwagon was enough to help this brand grow.
Miami-based app Relief used the invitation design from Squid Game to create over 10,000 business cards. The brand connected the Squid Game storyline of people getting out of debt to advertise its own service — to help people get their finances back in shape.
The cards were a hit. While we don’t know how much business they brought in, they were shared massively across social media, bringing plenty of brand awareness for Relief.
Image Source: Relief App
How Can You Use Squid Game and Other Viral Shows to Increase Brand Awareness?
How can your brand take advantage of the Squid Game craze — or whatever will weave its way into pop culture next? Implementing even just one of the tips below can help bring success.
Social Media Campaigns
Who doesn’t like social media growth? Adding the Squid Game effect, or any other popular show or movie, to your social media strategy is an easy way to get eyes on your brand. Social media provides the creative freedom to try out literally anything. It’s all about the timing.
However, there are some things you need to remember if social media is going to work for you. For one, head to TikTok, Instagram, or Twitter — that’s where the party begins. Roll up your sleeves and start researching what is working there — and what isn’t.
When you’ve found the right campaign to resonate with your target audience, you can increase your chances of going viral by using the right hashtags, trending music, and themes. Social algorithms work magic when it comes to trending content and you can get that slice of pie easily.
Here are a few social media posts from global brands that jumped on the Squid Game trend to provide some inspiration:
Heineken: One of the first brands to use the show on their social media — and get it right with their first try:
Marigold: Their creative social team was fast to jump on trends by offering chocolate milk to those who couldn’t get it — another smart reference to the show:
Latana: We also used Squid Game to promote the success your brand could have in the games by using brand tracking — have a look here:
If you are ready to spend a big chunk of your budget on an ad, consider billboards. Outdoor advertising is one of the most powerful ways to tell a story and build brand awareness, with over 60% of consumers responding to outdoor advertising.
The great thing about billboards is that they are 24/7 advertising. While a TV spot will only play at certain times, the billboard is constantly available to anybody that passes it. And research has shown that 75% of the people that pass by these billboards will consciously look.
One of the most famous pop-cultural inspired use-cases were billboard ads after the release of the Hollywood film Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri. This film, inspired by real-life events, has helped various NGOS start a conversation through the creation of billboards with messages that were meant to be a wake-up call.
Whatever you’ve heard about TV advertising being dead and old-fashioned is wrong. It’s always been a powerful tool for marketers to tell their brand story. Today, traditional TV has been given a modern makeover and businesses of all sizes are using TV to reach their audience and grow their brand.
TV ads inspired by films and series are nothing out of the ordinary, but there’s still lots of room for creativity. If you want to launch your first TV commercial, consider using the Squid Game effect. Not only can you take advantage of a trending topic, but you can also play around with characters to get attention.
Think along the lines of Volkswagen’s “The Force” ad, which first aired during the 2011 Super Bowl. “The Force” was viewed over 17 million times on YouTube before the kickoff during the match. The original video is no longer available on YouTube, but in 2016 it had over 61 million views and was named the second most-shared TV commercial.
Before deciding on launching TV commercials, you need to ensure that campaign success is possible in the age of streaming and be aware of the latest trends in TV advertising. Additionally, you need to know the pitfalls to avoid, and, most importantly, how to measure the impact of your TV campaigns.
We’ve seen how Squid Game has helped brands increase their brand awareness. The hype around the show will die down — but something else will always come along, and you can use the Squid Game effect to increase brand awareness. The tips included in this article will help you when the time comes.
Just remember, good marketing isn’t just about the campaigns. It’s also about understanding the impact those campaigns had on your target audience. If you want to know how consumers perceive your brand following the campaigns, take some time learning about what brand tracking can do for you.