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Barb sucks. 4 smart marketing lessons in Stranger Things

Stranger Things Marketing

By now, anyone reading this has seen Stranger Things and at least a handful of the million think pieces on how allegedly awesome Barb is. Things have even gone as far as people claiming her eyerolls are more majestic than Liz Lemon’s, and somehow she’s even managed to become a “feminist” icon. We’re here to rethink that for a minute.

Imagine a world full of Barbs, aside from the Molly Ringwald on laundry day fashion choices:

  • We’d fully reject any semblance of change. Our world wide motto would be “Embrace the Status Quo: Never grow up”.

Those who dared to defy it would be sent to death row after their attempts at becoming a tad more multifaceted are inexplicably deemed male pleasing shenanigans that in no way could have come from a place of self fulfilment or even empowerment.

  • We’d always know better than others about their problems. We’d snark away at any semblance of a problem.

Nancy fully knowing that Steve planned to bang her and still agreeing to go to her house? No way in hell. I’m Barb, I have to TELL her Steve wants to get in her pants. There’s no possible way that is just that she doesn’t want to talk about”.


  • We’d be excruciatingly shallow. Know why? Because she’s a fucking minor character with 5 lines. In fact, by now this blog post has 233 words, that’s 233.85 words more than the words she utters throughout her entire run in the show.

Stranger Things Marketing

Pictured: Not the greatest eyeroll.

She’s navigating the awful world of High School students. Chances are, she's being largely ignored, meaning she’s got pretty much a shit ton of feelings to take care of before she even begins to wonder what feminism is all about. And it’s 1984, that’s third wave feminism. She’ll probably be fighting rapes, and celebrating that Columbia College was letting women enroll for the first time in over 200 years. #SelfLove and #EffYourBeautyStandards would not be flags she’d wave.

The point is: She’s a one dimensional teenage character who doesn’t display any kind of feminist or awesome attributes. All she did was fulfill the token “You’ve changed” saying character that every female teenage character must face in every coming of age show to let audiences know a woman can’t possibly have agency over what she does.


Stranger Things Marketing

All for the male gaze


Let’s take a bit further. Think about what our content would look like. Where would we be if instead of inbound, outbound, or content marketing we had Barb Marketing?

Stranger Things Marketing

  • Victoria Secret would have to create old looking underwear to satisfy the low key slut shaming Barbs that would judge a flashy new bra.
  • There’d be no mystery campaigns because there’d be no place for 3rd party nuance or irony.
  • Your incognito browser mode? Forget about it, you don’t even know what you’re getting yourself into, all Barbs know better.

There’s no way you wouldn’t end up being the Demogorgon of marketing and diving head first into the worst marketing practices ever.

For all the love that Barb gets, there’s not many positive things to say about her unless we project ourselves onto her shallow character. And it’s not like we can’t learn anything good  from Stranger Things advertising wise. There's actually some pretty smart marketing lessons in Stranger things:

  1. Know your audience:

Stranger things is as far away from spontaneity as you can get without being a full blown robot. The writers knew their audience inside out from a clinical point of view before inserting all that heart and feels into their concoction. Those born between the late 70’s through the late 80’s (Hello, Millennials) grew up with E.T, The Goonies, and Stephen King novels and movies -and homages-. Stranger Things appeals to them with the attention to detail of an obsessive sociopath.

Stranger Things Marketing

From the bikes and flashlights to the D&D game, and even Barb’s separation anxiety, everything is  instantly recognizable. We know these things from our own lives. But the brilliant thing is, does it flaunt it before it’s got something to show? Nope.

This is how the show’s defined on its official Twitter bio.


Stranger Things Marketing

Talk about underwhelming

There’s absolutely nothing there about Dungeons and Dragons or Demogorgons or telekinetic powers. Our guess it’s they know it could have backfired, we can almost hear our past selves shrugging “Ugh, another sci fi show paying homage to E.T.? No, thanks”.

  1. Quality over quantity:

Stranger Things it’s just 8 episodes long, and while it has slow moments, it mostly shines in all its geeky glory. That’s something we can learn from the show to include in our efforts at inbound marketing best practices.

Why churn out irrelevant contain just to fill a space? There aren’t any rules saying you need to have 120 tweets a week, or a certain number of blog posts in a month, and frankly, a number shouldn’t really be your focus.

Think about excelling at what you do, instead of just creating more. After all, it’s the quality what’s going to...

  1. Delight customers into promoters

This is one of the best inbound practices to optimize your efforts. What happened when Stranger Things was finally available? It was so adorable, compelling and delightful that the buzz exploded. It went right to the top of most watched digital series which is nothing to scoff at.

Hyped audiences binged watched, loved it, and started enthusiastically recommending it everywhere. Guys, even Stephen King got pumped. On the weekend after the release, the only way to avoid hearing about it was going completely offline and not talking to anyone ever.

  1. Be authentic to create your own community

Dustin, Will, Lucas and Mark being complete nerds in the first few minutes of the show instills such a sense of camaraderie, that it’s almost impossible not to love them at first sight. By the time they rescue Will, you just feel like part of their crew.


Stranger Things Marketing

Their characters and the kid’s acting just completely sell you on the fact that they truly enjoy what they're doing. And isn’t that what we all want? Our audiences to know we trust so much in ourselves that they feel comfortable trusting in us too?

This is why instead of thinking of one dimensional Barb as the be all end all of All things Awesome and crawl your way into hell as the Demogorgon of Marketing, try being a little more like Dustin or Winona or Eleven, or even the cook who died in the first episode.


  • Barb is unarguably one dimensional and a world of Barb would turn us all into Demogorgons. Stop projecting awesomeness onto her.
  • If we were all Barb, watching paint dry would be more enjoyable than talking to each other.
  • There are at least 90,938 better things on Stranger Things.


Her character wasn’t developed. There’s no backstory, and the fact that she was killed, is not a crime to feminism -Or in any way #problematic, for that matter-. Barb’s death (1) Makes sense for the narrative, (2) Her not being traditionally pretty,  doesn’t automatically mean she’s a feminist icon. She’s a teenager with an unconventional look in the 1980’s in a small town.


P.S.: Wait a minute?  Still need guidance?  No need to look for another Miami marketing agency. We are eager to help! Contact us!

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Topics: Opinion