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New Stranger Things Merch Collection Is Off-Beat 80s Nostalgia Perfection

'80s nostalgia and an intoxicatingly dark storyline with elements of sci-fi and horror have earned the Netflix series Stranger Things a loyal – and growing – following of devoted fans.

Now, with season two launching last weekend, Netflix has teamed up with retailer BoxLunch to create a new collection of branded merchandise that seeks to capitalize on the enthusiasm around the show.

Inspired by scenes and '80s-tastic styling cues from the first and current season, BoxLunch and Netflix are offering a capsule collection of apparel, accessories and collectibles, some pieces of which you can see below.

For the uninitiated, Stranger Things is set in the fictional town of Hawkins, IN, in the 1980s. The plot centers on the investigation of a disappearance of a young boy and supernatural events that include a young girl with psychokinetic abilities who helps the missing child's friends in their search for their friend. The second season picks up the story a year after the events of the first season.

If you haven't yet indulged in binge-watching the show, give it a look and you'll see why so many people have done just that. And, why they're so excited about the new merch collection, which includes a Stranger Things Holiday Sweater; Hawkins High Crewneck and Duffle Bag; the '80s-arcade styled Pixel Tee and Merrill's Farm Tee; and three additional shirts that feature imagery from Season Two. Plus, there is a trio of limited-edition Madrid Skateboard decks and a line-up of Funko Pop! vinyl figures.

Just as cool, Strangers Things is spawning ancillary merch opportunities. As the StarTribune reports, fans are going bonkers over the retro purple sweatshirt from the Science Museum of Minnesota that character Dustin wore on the show. Sharp to spot an opportunity, the Science Museum is going to create a line of the imprinted hoodies. It's already using Twitter to encourage folks to sign up for the museum's email list to learn when the sweatshirts are available.

If that weren't enough merch-related fun, there is also this candle holder that's as wonderfully weird as the show itself. It's in the shape of psychokinetic character Eleven – wax bleeds through its nose. Available from Firebox, the candle is expected to be available by mid-December. "Easily the strangest thing we've ever created," says Firebox.

Then, of course, there are these rad Stranger Things-inspired sneakers/trainers from Reebok and BAIT.

What's the takeaway for promotional product distributors? Perhaps this: While you certainly can't rip off Stranger Things, you can tap into the same market current as the show. That's to say, there's a definite appetite for offbeat, retro '80s entertainment and products from both millennials and those in their later 30s and early 40s. When end-buyers target such audiences – particularly in urban areas, at cultural events, product launches, music festivals and the like – engineering a promotion that involves merchandise and messaging that draws on the quirky vintage vibe from the decade of MTV and big hair could be a smart move.

Washington Capitals' Gravy Boat Giveaway is Promo Gold

The Washington Capitals will be doing their bit to moisten overcooked turkeys this Thanksgiving courtesy of an uncanny promotional product.

Fans attending the NHL team’s Nov. 22 game against the Ottawa Senators will receive a gravy boat in the form of a mini ice resurfacer. "Ice resurfacer" is the generic term for what fans typically call a "Zamboni" – the man-driven machine that comes out between periods in hockey games to smooth the ice. (To be a true Zamboni, the resurfacer has to be made by the Zamboni Company, but we digress.)

To the gravy boat at hand:

Fans willing to pay for theme night packages (starting at $69) on Nov. 22 will receive the unique piece of branded dinnerware just in time to grace their Turkey Day tables the next day with a showing of team pride that is sure to irk visiting family members who do evil things like root for the Pittsburgh Penguins and New York Rangers.

As a hockey fan, you have to love a clever one-upper like that, eh hoser? Just think of watching your Penguins-loving cousin having to decide between conceding to use the Capitals gravy boat or trying to scarf down grandma’s dry turkey without the gravy’s lubricating assistance. It’s schadenfreude as delectable as apple pie.

As a promotional initiative, the Capitals are scoring big with the gravy boat, which is being presented by Walmart. After all, it’s unique, memorable, timely, useful, and genuinely expressive of the brand – all elements of a winning promotion.

In fact, the Capitals seem to have a knack for successful game day promos. This year, other branded products fans will receive with purchases of theme night packages include a puck-shaped bottle opener and a nifty Capitals ice scraper that features the shaft of a hockey stick that ends in an ice skate at the scraping edge.

Taco Bell, Forever 21 Launch Joint Fashion Line

Promotional clothing lines are a serious marketing opportunity for brands. Need proof? Consider the latest iteration that was unveiled this week in California.

Fast fashion retail chain Forever 21 and fast food chain Taco Bell have teamed up to launch the limited-edition Forever 21 x Taco Bell Collection, which officially hit the apparel retailer’s website and select brick-and-mortar stores this week. It debuted at a fashion show in Los Angeles on Tuesday and was announced on Taco Bell’s Instagram with the hashtag #F21xTacoBell.

Among the apparel pickings are cropped hoodies with the food chain’s iconic bell logo, graphic T-shirts, shiny metallic anorak jackets, and even colorful bodysuits that mimic Taco Bell’s hot sauce packets, featuring slogans like “Fire! Don’t Wait Up.” There are also youth T-shirt, hoodie and jacket options, along with iPhone cases. The men’s styles (including an anorak jacket with major color-blocking) are already sold out.

Taco Bell says the unconventional offerings are a serious part of its marketing strategy, which has focused on social media and millennial-centric branding in recent years.

“We really took pains to make this a legitimate collection that is relevant and fun and modern,” Marisa Thalberg, Taco Bell’s CMO, said in a statement. “We’ve seen our fans get individually creative in expressing their love for Taco Bell through fashion, and we believe this collection with Forever 21 is going to be everything they would expect from us in extending the Taco Bell lifestyle to fashion: original, affordable, creative, a little quirky and definitely fun.”

Taco Bell, which operates 7,000 locations across the U.S., is no stranger to branded merch. At the food chain’s online Taco Shop, fans can shop graphic T-shirts, hoodies, jewelry, notebooks, pencils and phone cases. One of its first forays into the fashion world was in 2014, through a partnership with Los Angeles-based streetwear brand The Hundreds to offer custom socks. And in 2016, Taco Bell opened a brick-and-mortar Taco Shop in Las Vegas, which sells apparel, towels, bikinis and swim trunks, caps, tie-dyed T-shirts, taco-shaped pillows and more.

In general, fast food fashion and branded merchandise are having a moment. Pizza Hut, owned by Taco Bell parent company Yum Brands, released a Hut Swag line in 2016, featuring items like snapback caps and T-shirts with slogans, such as “My Pizza My Life.” Another Yum brand, KFC opened the KFC Ltd. ecommerce store earlier this year, offering sweatshirts, T-shirts, socks, jewelry, scarves, lapel pins and pillowcases. And this summer, McDonald’s unveiled a playful Big Mac collection featuring pajamas and pillows, among other items.

Additionally, it seems tacos in particular have major branding power. The Fresno Grizzlies, a minor league baseball team, rechristen the team as the Tacos once a week during the season, with special Taco-emblazoned jerseys and caps. The name originated from Californians’ long-time affinity for taco trucks. “It definitely targets a younger crowd,” Sam Hansen, director of marketing for the Fresno Grizzlies, told Advantages magazine earlier this year. “Or at least that was the intention – I’ve noticed a lot of older people starting to wear Tacos jerseys and hats.” 

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