What Digital Marketers Can Learn from Netflix's Squid Game

What Digital Marketers Can Learn from Netflix’s Squid Game

Updated on: 15 October 2021
What Digital Marketers Can Learn from Netflix's Squid Game
Image Credit: Netflix’s Facebook page

If Netflix is your go-to streaming platform, or you are a big fan of Hallyu, you would likely have heard of the Korean sensation that is Squid Game. Audiences worldwide have been captivated by the show’s gripping plot ever since its release on 17 September. In fact, Squid Game is now Netflix’s biggest show, having been sampled by over 111 million subscribers since its debut.

Now, you might be wondering how a TV series applies to digital marketing? Well, there are actually plenty of learning points we can glean from the show. After all, at its core, digital marketing is about telling a story to your audience, with the end goal of convincing them to purchase your products or services – just like how the producers are hoping their series will attract an audience to tune in and watch the show.

With that in mind, we believe there are learning points from the show that digital marketers can incorporate into their strategies and campaigns. After binging the first season in one sitting, let us highlight some of the key takeaways from the show that digital marketers should take note of.

Needless to say, there are major spoilers for the show. So if you have not watched the show yet, we recommend viewing it first before reading our article – the twists deserve to be experienced first-hand!

Surprise is the key to attracting attention in digital marketing

Surprise Is The Key To Attracting Attention In Digital Marketing

Unless you have caught a glimpse of its promotional material beforehand, most of us were likely experiencing the series blind – probably due to the various recommendations from our close friends and family members. At first glance, it seems to be a throwback to the games many adults played as a child, with the added caveat of a large cash prize.

In fact, the first game, Red Light, Green Light, seemed simple enough. Many viewers would likely be flooded with nostalgia as they watch the various contestants play a game that is all too familiar to them. However, the first significant twist comes after a contestant is eliminated, and let us just say it isn’t pretty.

However, the twist is part of what made the show so captivating. It works because the audience is invested in the plot, with the utilisation of these childhood games as a hook to settle them into familiar surroundings. Moreover, these games are associated with our childhoods, which often symbolises innocent. So to have the consequence of losing a game be so graphic creates a lasting impression among the viewers.

In digital marketing, one of the best ways to bring life into our brand story and content marketing is the element of surprise. Everyone loves a good twist, which is why the big surprises in any medium are still discussed today. So with that in mind, instead of asking, “What do we need to say?”, we should focus on “What expectations do our potential customers hold, and how can we subvert them?”

You have to take risks

In the second episode, the contestants were given a choice to opt-out of the competition after they realised the full scope of the contest. Despite the majority of the participants choosing to back out, 187 of them still returned to play the games, even though they knew what was at risk.

Just like those 187 people who risked their lives for the prize money, sometimes – as a digital marketer – you have to take risks in order for your digital marketing campaign to be successful. You may be required to deviate from your normal strategies to attract more traffic to your online platforms and website.

Of course, taking risks comes with its downsides. Your target audience might not like your new marketing direction, resulting in a drop in followers. While you might lose a few customers, the risks you take might reaper greater rewards, bringing in an influx of new clients. As such, you have to consider all the angles before making the best decision for your company.

There is no wrong way to market a brand

Similar to how the contestants each have their own approaches to winning the games, there is no wrong way to market a brand effectively. After all, a significant component of digital marketing is creativity.

Furthermore, no two businesses are alike. As such, the marketing strategies adopted will vary from brand to brand since there is no agreed-upon method to marketing a product or service. In fact, even direct competitors may find themselves struggling to mimic the other’s marketing approach.

While there is nothing wrong with studying and trying to replicate a competitor’s success – just like the other players looking to mimic Gi-hun after witnessing him licking his dalgona candy – it is vital to remember that results may vary. Therefore, you should consider whether the marketing strategy aligns with your company’s goals and vision before you proceed with it.

Do not just stick to one approach in marketing

Do Not Just Stick To One Approach In Marketing

Throughout the series, we witness the various contestants utilising different approaches to try and win the competition. Some of the notable ones that stood out include:

  • Player 101, Jang Deok-su, inciting a riot between the second and third game, effectively eliminating 27 competitors from the contents.
  • Player 111, a doctor, utilises his skills to help the guards with their side hustle in exchange for vital information about the upcoming games.
  • Player 212, Han Mi-nyeo, manipulating her way into whichever group she believes stands the best chance of surviving.
  • Player 218, Cho Sang-woo, tricking his partner, Ali, by swapping his marbles with rocks when he realised he was losing the game.

However, while their strategies were effective, all of them were eliminated at one point or another since the nature of the games varies. Thus, their single-minded approaches to the entire game don’t always work.

Similarly, the trends in digital marketing are constantly changing. Therefore, you should not stick to just a single approach, even though it has proven to be effective so far. What works now may not be as effective in the future. As such, no matter how famous your brand is, you should utilise different approaches to reach varying target groups, such as SEO and social media marketing. If you are unsure of the options available to you, you can check out our ultimate guide to the best digital marketing strategies to adopt to promote your brand.

Doing so can help you generate new leads, entice potential customers, promote new products and campaigns, and re-engage current clients. As the adage goes, “Never put your eggs into one basket”. It is wise to have varying strategies as backup plans should your primary approach fail.

What can the world of fiction teach us about digital marketing?

Well, as it turns out, the answer to that question is a lot. Digital marketing and fictional TV shows may seem completely different at first glance, but both mediums share the same core concept: attracting the attention of an audience through effective storytelling, thereby creating a positive audience experience. Trends may come and go, but creating an unforgettable experience for the audience is forever.