Squid Game and Marketing 101
Ever since its premiere 25 days ago, the drama series, Squid Game has generated a lot of buzz. The film has become a social media sensation and has inspired memes, TikTok challenges, and even a re-enactment of the games in the UAE. Squid Game is a story of survival: 456 contestants are expected to play a series of children’s games without being eliminated for a chance to clinch the cash prize of 45.6 billion Korean Won (KRW). Here, elimination means death.
While the film holds many life lessons—and that’s why it’s relatable—this article takes focus away from these obvious lessons and concentrates on a subtle aspect: marketing.
Our insight into the marketing messages embedded in the series begins with one question: How did an organization get 456 individuals to put their lives on the line for money? The answer: The organization followed the AIDA model of marketing or advertising.
AIDA, which stands for Attention/Awareness, Interest, Desire and Action, is a marketing model or funnel that identifies the buyer’s journey to purchasing a product. First, the buyer is aware of the product, develops an interest in the product, desires the product, and finally takes action by purchasing the product. Identifying this journey allows brands and businesses to develop effective strategies to implant themselves in the minds of the potential buyer till the buyer takes action. So how did the organizers of Squid Game do this?
Organizers of the game are intentional about their selection. They strategically go for people who are cash-strapped and buried neck-deep in debt; people who owe their banks millions to billions of won. This financial quagmire provides a foundation for getting the attention of the individual and creating awareness for the product—in this case, the game. All the game representative has to do is get the person to play a simple game and promise them 100,000 KRW if they win. Desperate, the person tries and tries and tries till they win and get the money.
The official hands the money to the person and earns their trust. Then, he tells the player that they can win a lot more by playing other simple games. He gives them a card, asks them to call if they decide to play. Attention is gotten; awareness is raised.
Lesson 1: People can only purchase a product they know about. No matter how important your product is, you must first get people’s attention by creating awareness around it. Make your brand and product visible especially on social media. Earn people’s trust and get them to try your product. You can do this by offering your product for free or giving a discount. For instance, say you’ve taken our Cake Baking and Decoration Course, and you want to go into the business of cake baking, you can organize a cake tasting event where people can sample different flavours of your cake for free. (Get the course here.)
Initially, organizers of the game skip the stages of interest and desire. They make no effort to heighten the interest of the players. They withhold an important piece of information and literally trick contestants into playing the first game. Contestants play without knowing that the consequence of losing is death. When they realize it, they lose interest in the game and cry to be taken back home. This is when the organizers correct their mistake: they tell the players of the prize at stake. 45.6 billion won! Interest is restored and heightened; some want to play.
Lesson 2: Every stage of the buyer’s journey is important. The aim of following these stages sequentially is to persuade and convince the buyer to purchase your offering. Skipping any stage means you are withholding information and this would likely breed mistrust when the buyer discovers it. Do not bully or trick people into buying your product. Heighten their interest by telling or showing them the merits of your product. Our 7-Figure Affiliate Marketing Mastery Course taught by an 18-year old millionaire shows you how to pique your buyer’s interest to purchase your product. (Get the course here.)
Most times, interest is not enough. Some of the players are not convinced to risk their lives for billions of won. According to the rules of the game, if a majority of the contestants vote for the game to be stopped, the game ends. But before the voting begins, we see the organizers take their first step at creating desire. They read the profiles of some of the contestants—reminding them of their debts and how they need the prize money to clear these debts. After this rundown of profiles, the 201 players (out of the initial 456) that survived the first game cast votes. 101 people vote for the game to be stopped.
The game ends. The players are taken back to their homes—and in this move, we see the organizers’ second step at creating desire.
Returning to the harsh realities of their lives (Sang-Woo is hiding from the police because of his huge debts, Gi-Hun’s mother is diabetic and is at risk of having an amputated foot, Sae-Byeok has a brother in the orphanage, and Ali needs to take care of his wife and baby) reinforces the reminder they received from the organizers. It shows them why they need the money. The organizers, lurking in the shadows, expect this realization and seize the opportunity to invite the players to continue the game. 187 players accept this invitation.
Lesson 3: It is not enough to talk about your product, you need to tell people why they need your product. This means that what you are offering should solve a problem. For instance, our WhatsApp Monetization Course teaches you how to leverage your WhatsApp to sell your product and create wealth for yourself. The course serves as a perfect solution to the financial challenges of many as it teaches them how to use a simple communication tool for wealth creation. (Get the course here.)
This may be the last step in the funnel, but it is as important as other steps. Although they know they’ve done a good job heightening players’ interest and desire, organizers of the Squid Game inspire the players to take action. First, they tell the player to call the number on the card. When a player dials the number on the card, the voice at the other end of the line tells them to state their name and their date of birth to enter. The players are also informed of a pickup point where a bus will convey them to the venue of the game.
Telling the players to take these action steps is the organizers’ way of confirming the player's interest and desire. They do not assume that the desire alone will motivate a person to play, so they motivate the player themselves.
Lesson 4: Never stop your marketing at the point of desire. Motivate the buyer to make a purchase. Tell them what you want them to do.
Tell them to come taste your cake. Tell them to buy after they are done tasting.
Tell them to click your affiliate link. Tell them to buy a product after clicking.
Tell them to read your WhatsApp stories. Tell them to buy your product after reading.
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