Vice President of Communications, Scott Lusk, discusses how communicators can learn from the show’s ascension to the most-watched Netflix program in at least 90 countries – and from the games themselves.
Warning: Spoilers ahead
Squid Game is a runaway hit. The South Korean drama-thriller, written and directed by Hwang Dong-hyuk, follows participants who play children’s games with life-and-death consequences. Communicators can learn valuable lessons from the show’s ascension to the most-watched Netflix program in at least 90 countries – and from the games themselves.
The Mighty Meme
How did Squid Game become so popular even though the show had virtually no marketing in the US? Squid Game memes electrified social media. Memes on every social media platform reached an audience that wanted to be a part of the sensation. In fact, “#SquidGame” content has been viewed more than 20 billion times on TikTok.
While social media is a standard campaign tool, the best brand marketers will selectively use memes to reach a massive and enthusiastic audience. Memes can help brand marketers build community among consumers, relate to their audience, and stay top-of-mind for potential new consumers.
The Power of Visual Communications
Squid Game is visually stunning. From the pastel M.C. Escher-like staircase to the green and pink jumpsuits to the elaborate Front Man masks, the show immediately catches viewers’ eyes. Squid Game also uses visuals to communicate subtle – but important – messages. Consider the square, triangle and circle that mirror PlayStation controller buttons used to slyly alert viewers they are watching a game.
Communicators should prioritize visual communications to engage audiences, communicate complex information and convey emotion. Visual elements help brands stand out from competitors.
Remaining Calm in a Crisis
A giant schoolgirl robot tries to catch players moving during the show’s first game – Red Light, Green Light. Players who move during a “red light” are killed. It’s a chaotic scene, and many players die when their panic causes them to run or stumble.
During a crisis, the best way for communicators to stay calm is to have a plan. Every organization should develop and test a crisis plan so that they can remain calm, quickly assess a situation and respond versus react.
In Squid Game, building the right relationships literally has life-or-death consequences. The sixth episode – largely considered the most heartbreaking – highlights the connection between two players. After building a bond with Sae-byeok (player 067), Ji-yeong (player 240) intentionally lets Sae-byeok win the game of marbles even though it means she will die.
Meaningful relationships are essential for successful communicators. This is especially important inside the Beltway where relationships can determine if a bill gets passed or an article gets published. Building genuine connections based on trust and mutual respect is essential for top communicators.
Leadership and Teamwork
During the tug of war game, Oh Il-nam (player 001) tells his team that “All you need is a good strategy, combined with good teamwork.” He’s right. Having this strategy in place was critical to their success, especially since they were physically weaker than their opponents.
A good strategy must leverage relationships, both inside and outside of the organization. Communications leaders must assess their team’s limits and possibilities and work alongside their teams to harness the cumulative power of the team – like Oh Il-nam.
Reach out to Scott at email@example.com to share your favorite streaming binges or your organization’s communications challenges. You can also follow him on LinkedIn.