On November 25, 2016, the world received an incredible gift.
Some may remember this day as simply the day which followed Thanksgiving, but many will recall this day as the day Gilmore Girls returned. Thanks to Netflix, the beloved mother/daughter duo came rushing back into the homes and open arms of millions of fans after almost ten years of absence, bringing with them the classic warmth, quirkiness, and charm that their fans had grown to love.
Upon its return, the show remained loyal to its characters, values, and dialogue; however, there was one stark difference between the original series and the new Netflix revival: its method of promotion. While Gilmore Girls was away, the world moved forward at an increasingly rapid pace. The pagers and landlines once featured in the show and popular during its original airing became obsolete, and even the original medium of airing (cable TV) was on the decline at the announcement of the show’s revival. In this way, the advancement of technology presented an interesting challenge for the show, as it was tasked with updating its old marketing methods in a way that included its original audience while also remaining relevant and engaging in a tech-obsessed climate. All in all, because of the show’s creative promotions and focus on experiential marketing, Gilmore Girls’ time travel from 2000 to 2016 was a revolutionary success.
Back during the show’s premiere in 2000, the internet was not the all-consuming force it has come to be today. Much of the Gilmore Girls promotion was done in the form videos made for television or staged photos. Most of these videos begin with a song similar in nature to the series’ theme song, “Where You Lead” by Carole King and Louise Goffin, and with a pleasant, upbeat tune humming in the background, they feature a booming voice-over by an anonymous male and flashes of positive reviews by various critics. The bulk of the show’s promotional photos are all very dramatic in nature, causing viewers to feel as if they were taken in secret, with the audience simply a fly on the wall to a personal or dramatic encounter, uninvited to the moment at hand. In both instances, these promotional items do not invite much viewer engagement, as the video talks at viewers rather than with them, and the photos capture vaguely dramatic and impersonal moments.
When it came time to promote the Gilmore Girls revival, Netflix was in tune to consumer desires for immersive and engaging experiences, and the company realized that the old method of promotion left much to be desired in this new climate. As a result, the company completely overhauled the marketing approach for the new revival series. Facilitated by the prevalence of the internet, Netflix worked hard to appeal to original viewers while also capitalizing on new opportunities to gain the attention of audiences that had not grown up with the show, such as younger millennial watchers.
The difference in approach from 2000 to 2016 can be seen plainly in the newer promotional media released by the company. Netflix’s official trailer for Gilmore Girls: A Year in the Life features modern instrumental music where there used to be upbeat solo artists, and bold text absent of a narrator where there once was a booming male voice. These choices invite viewers to engage more with the media, as they are required to read and follow along with the video without the distraction of a popular song or aid of a narrator. In addition to the videos, the promotional photos show a change in approach, with their simple and clean aesthetic. Rather than dramatic poses and scenes, the characters are staged on a solid blue background, holding a nondescript pose, and looking viewers directly in the eyes.
These creative choices increase viewer engagement because onlookers are able to focus directly on the main idea (the show’s return) in a simple and clean-cut way. The absence of vague drama and insertion of eye contact signals to the viewers early on that this revival is a fresh, new, and engaging take on the Gilmore Girls of old. The media allows original audiences to behold the return of their favorite characters, but newer generations are still able to engage with the promotions without any prior knowledge of the plot.
In addition to these creative changes, Netflix’s most notable effort to increase audience immersion and experience came in the opening of imitation Luke’s Diners across the United States. The company got the hashtag #LukesDiner trending on twitter, and on one specific day converted 200+ US coffee shops into replicas of the beloved Gilmore Girls diner. At these locations, free coffee was served, custom signs were hung, baristas wore themed aprons, and the coffee was poured into cups with the Luke’s Diner logo and quotes from the show. Additionally, there was a code on each cup which unlocked a limited-edition, 24-hour Gilmore Girls Snapchat filter. This revolutionary and unprecedented immersion experience was wildly popular among both old and new audiences, as the effort allowed viewers to engage with the show in a new, socially-connected, experiential way.
Overall, the unparalleled characters, values, and dialogue in Gilmore Girls renders the show timeless and relevant across multiple generations, and for this reason millions were thrilled to learn of the show’s revival series streaming on Netflix. Still, due to the show’s nearly decade-long hiatus, it was imperative that Gilmore Girls update their marketing efforts to stay relevant in an increasingly digital and experience-driven era. By altering their promotional media and imagining new ways for audiences to be immersed in the show, Netflix was able to overcome the technological hurdle, and successfully bring Gilmore Girls into the world of today. Because of this success, both old audiences and new were able to experience the return of the classic show in an engaging way, and as a result Gilmore Girls continues to be influential in the lives of generations of viewers.
What do you think about the shift in approach? Did you get the chance to try coffee at one of the pop-up Luke’s Diner locations? Tell me about it in the comments below!