Lessons From the Mind Flayer’s Viral Marketing Play On Tinder
By: Laura Bedrossian, VP, Social Strategy at Hot Paper Lantern
August 7, 2019
Note: “Stranger Things” Season 3 Spoilers Ahead.
The other day, it came to me. Maybe it was the fact that I binge watched “Stranger Things” Season 3 in two days and was sad it was over. Maybe it was the Mind Flayer’s influence.
Whatever the reason, I found myself wondering: Why didn’t the Mind Flayer use digital tools to find its next hosts for a hostile Earth takeover?
Perhaps under the Mind Flayer’s influence, I set up a Tinder profile for the king of the Upside Down. After all, what better way to connect with large groups of people/dates/hosts quickly than on an app with millions of users (five million of them paid subscribers, according to the New York Times)?
In less than five minutes I put together a profile with the best photos Google Images could offer, including one of the Flayer’s main man Billy and one of Will’s artistic renderings from Season 2.
In about two and a half hours I connected with more than 70 matches…until I got banned.
The Mind Flayer didn’t say anything offensive. He just encouraged people who messaged him (and there were a lot of messages) to go to abandoned steel mills—don’t mind the rats—or asked about fertilizer preferences. You know, the usual Tinder stuff.
But was the Mind Flayer—the Shadow Monster himself—shadow banned? No, because he got a lot of matches, in effect, telling Tinder’s algorithm that other users enjoyed his content.
No, the Mind Flayer was most likely banned by Tinder for using copyrighted material—the only images that exist of the Mind Flayer, unfortunately—paired with the fact that I do not work for Netflix or own the rights to his likeness.
I was a little disappointed that my run as the Mind Flayer only lasted about two hours. I hadn’t imagined so many accounts would match with the profile so quickly, and it was fun that people got the joke right away.
My experiment also speaks to Tinder’s potential as a platform for viral marketing. Here are a few lessons and industry reminders from the experience, for those looking to test the waters with a similar stunt:
- Expect a short window before the platform cracks down. The rapid pace at which Tinder shut down my profile was truly impressive. Sure, someone may have reported the Mind Flayer, but it is far more likely that the algorithm caught me, flagging how quickly I was connecting with others, and the scale at which users were responding. (Thanks a lot, technology.)
- Start a conversation. Half of the messages we (is it weird to say “we?” Does that make me a minion of the Mind Flayer?) received complimented the profile, while the others asked how a denizen of the Upside Down was able to connect via Tinder despite the distance.
- Catch the tail end of the relevance cycle. While my little experiment came several weeks after the “Stranger Things” Season 3 premiere, viewers are still tuning in and re-watching to this day, and there is plenty of show swag and buzz floating around (I see you, Target, TikTok and Hot Topic). Taking the “day two” story approach still proved topical, while avoiding competition from the zillions of outlets capitalizing on the premiere the week it started streaming. It was also a good reminder that fun and goofy actions are viable routes to grabbing attention en masse. Imagine if Netflix had officially launched the profile—we’d have an entire army of “flayed” Tinder users by now!
- It’s a viable tactic, for the right brand. Your legal department will not condone the use of copyrighted material. I was a private citizen making a joke, but a similar tactic could land a brand in hot water. However, if you find a character that suits your brand’s voice (and that you own the assets to)—a mascot, a product, a long-gone company founder—the sky’s the limit.
While my time as the Mind Flayer was short-lived, I just hope that the next time you find yourself swiping through and you see Alexei with his cherry Slurpie, you think of me—and the fun you could have with your brand, albeit on an unconventional platform.