3 Marketing Lessons "Squid Game" Can Teach Us
By now, you’ve most probably heard of the term “Squid Game”, most probably one of the most popular topics in 2021.
In case you haven’t, Squid Game is a South Korean survival drama TV show aired by Netflix. It was incredibly hyped, and for me, it was worth the hype.
It was such a good series, that about 89% of people who started the show watched more than one episode, 67% finished the first season (AdWeek).
Let me ask you this; can you recall the first time you came across any Squid Game elements, and decided to start watching it?
Being curious, I asked this to my friends, the most common answers were:
- Their friends asked them to watch the series,
- They started to see plenty of Instagram stories around the series,
- They saw “Squid Game” related content on TikTok.
Seeing the results, I know that I must write about this, mainly because the phenomenon highly emphasizes on word-of-mouth, a concept that’s so close, yet extremely difficult to trigger.
Here are 3 marketing lessons “Squid Game” can teach us from its recent hype.
1. Word-of-mouth can be more successful than spending millions on ad campaigns.
When I first came across the term “Squid Game”, it was definitely a slow and steady experience; from the series poster being displayed at Netflix home page, few posts on Instagram, and friends posting a story giving a rating of the series.
I know I’m an extremely difficult person to influence. In fact, I wasn’t even curious about the series at all, at least for the first few days.
The massive bombardment of exposure, however, forced me to surrender and gave it a watch.
In the end, I finished the series in 2 days.
The series has everything to love in a TV show; the concept, storyline, outfits, you name it.
But what makes it incredibly interesting was how it still managed to catch my attention and finished it so quickly.
From this brief story of mine, there are 3 primary elements I’d like to highlight; the fact that I started watching, the fact that I continued watching until the end, and the fact that I’m writing about the series now.
Think about it in a more generic term, acquisition, retention, and referral. It goes back to the very fundamental of digital marketing objectives.
Word-of-mouth is an all-time classic Marketing technique that has been around for hundreds of years. In fact, how else would you be able to spread the word back in the day?
Don’t get me wrong though, word-of-mouth is extremely hard to predict or artificially created, because it involves a combination of luck and timing.
Squid Game executed this very well and is a living proof how word-of-mouth can be even more successful than any other marketing vehicles. Creating word-of-mouth at such speed is an extremely rare occasion.
With social media being so accessible to businesses, they can now attempt to trigger buzz with hopes to get the word-of-mouth going.
Because of this, you see more Instagram stories, more news, more memes, all over different social media such as Facebook, Instagram, and of course, TikTok.
We will start talking about the guard’s costume and how iconic it is. We will start talking about the giant “red light green light” statue, and of course, the legendary “Number One” as a meme.
This creates a strong sense of FOMO (Fear of Missing Out), mainly because don’t want to miss talking about this with your friends.
Us social creatures would love to be a part of what matters, and we love sharing these contents to our friends and family just to be a part of it. Squid Game executed this very well, and a massive word-of-mouth wave serves as their reward.
We have digital marketing memes collection. You have to check it out!
2. Find what customer wants, though we wouldn’t know for sure what it is, until they show us
Try re-watching Squid Game, and notice all sorts of elements in life were actually included in the series.
From something light such as costumes and varying traditional games, all the way to hidden messages around capitalism, and violence.
From the looks of it, it really seems like Squid Game was exactly what people around the world needs now with the pandemic; unique concept, all in all out of the norm.
Here’s the catch; the script for Squid Game was written since about 2009, with plenty of efforts from the writer to get it produced, but no traction.
The industry thinks that the concept is incredibly unrealistic and violent that producers back then were confident Squid Game was just another idea that’ll flop.
See the common theme there? The reason of success and struggle was exactly the same!
No one will be able to predict what consumers like and dislike until they start consuming. No one was able to predict Squid Game’s success (Except maybe Netflix?).
When you want to ‘wow’ consumers, conducting market research is less of a priority compared to experimentation to break out of conventional norms.
Of course, concepts will fail, experiments are cash-burners, and innovation will be criticised. But unless we push the product out there, we will never know.
3. TikTok is really changing how we should approach our audiences
TikTok is definitely something else. A lot of people thought it’s going to be just another Musically and Vines (By that, they think it’s only temporary). Here they are thriving as one of the biggest platforms ever.
If you own a business, TikTok should definitely be utilised for your brand. The platform does all sorts of things; these things you used to be able to do with Vines and Musically.
What makes it so special then? As a user myself, no one should underestimate how powerful their algorithm is. This is one of the biggest reasons why plenty of users can end up spending hours on TikTok.
Do you know that TikTok is included as one of the proven marketing strategies in 2022?
Yes, TikTok is one of a way to find and create trending contents.
Now, what did TikTok do for Squid Game?
TikTok has also been changing the way brands should interact with their audiences. Instead of being way too formal, brands reply to comments in a friendlier tone. This levels the playing field, which makes it a lot easier for brands to connect with their audiences.
Due to the uniqueness of the concept’s series, plenty of contents were made around Squid Game theme, recreating their favourite scene, sharing inside jokes, using the music to be relevant, and a whole lot more.
The ultimate advantage? The only way for people to understand these trends and jokes is to actually watch the show because of how detailed these contents can be.
Once they’ve watched the series, it almost feels like they have this new power to understand the phenomenon that has been happening worldwide.
This is another example of acquisition leveraged by FOMO, thanks to TikTok.
Connecting all the dots, companies and brands are aware of this, decides to capitalise on the momentum, which results in a massive snowball of Squid Game content across all sides.
This is the pinnacle of marketing strategy; to make the campaign so unique and specific, which results in brands being able to take advantage of their audiences and turn them into advocates.
Make the best use of the momentum, and it’s perfectly fine to ride the wave to gain traction.
“Squid Game” will always be remembered
Though I hate saying this, but trends will eventually go away.
I’m not saying it’ll be completely gone both in the short and long term. In fact, they’re releasing season 2 and everyone liked that!
Also In 10 years’ time, I believe there will be at least 1 people in a Halloween party with the guard/participant’s outfit. I believe the memory will stay, even for generations to come.
What’s exciting for marketers when these kinds of phenomenon occurred is the fact that you’ll always have exciting marketing lessons to learn, just like how the series “Squid Game” did their magic.
With these occurrences from time to time, it’s going to teach us no matter how creative and analytical we are as a marketer, don’t ever forget the fundamental and your ultimate objective.
Talking about digital marketing, Squid Game has pretty strong SEO.
If you just established your company and don’t know what to do, this could be one of your strategy.
P.S If you recognise all the pictures and memes from this article, you’re the king!