Friends, the half-hour sitcom about the time in your life when your friends are your family, aired from 1994 to 2004. But you probably knew that. Sometime between then and now, Friends entered the pop culture zeitgeist for that era. The TV show was added to Netflix in 2015, which introduced the show to a whole generation of fans. Now it’s 2021, 17 years since the finale, and people still quote the show and watch reruns daily.
Last week, fans finally got a long-awaited reunion special featuring all six original cast members filmed on the iconic set. The wide range of viewers made for a unique audience. Not only did fans who watched as the show aired, now in their forties and fifties, watch the reunion, but also all of the younger fans who have watched the show since. According to TVision, around 29% of streaming households watched the reunion the day it came out. It’s incredible how popular the reunion and show still is.
Of course, being the marketing (and 90’s sitcom) nerds we are, we couldn’t help but share some marketing takeaways from all the buzz.
Influencer Marketing and the #FriendsReunionParty
Because the Friends reunion happened in the COVID world, creating content on social media was imperative. Under normal circumstances, the Friends cast would have been able to travel to different promotional interviews leading up to the premiere of the reunion. There likely also would have been a huge premiere with countless guest stars from the show and other celebs. To go digital, they used “influencers” to throw a digital party on the day of the reunion’s release. An influencer is someone with a following on social media who can guide the decision-making of their massive audiences. Not only did this help generate buzz, but it helped to engage the younger Friends viewers who are becoming the new core audience.
The event was hosted by Maggie Ziegler, an 18-year-old star who rose to fame in her early years on the television show Dance Moms. She has over 13 million dedicated Instagram followers and is idolized by young people everywhere. During the event, she had other influencers, celebrities, and Friends guest stars stop by, play games, and answer questions. This all led to a socially distant outdoor screening in Los Angeles.
We can all learn a little something from the Friends social media accounts. Although the show wrapped almost two decades ago, the official Instagram account still posts several times a week. Whether it’s clips from the show, memes, or videos from popular creators about the show, they keep a consistent content schedule, so when it came time to promote the reunion, the show had already curated an audience of more than 11 million people online who clearly still love to see and share Friends content.
On top of the influencers and digital stars involved with the Friends reunion party, the special also featured several A-Listers who helped to promote the event. Models Cara Delevingne (43.3m Instagram followers) and Cindy Crawford (5.3m), Grammy-winner Justin Bieber (176m), and soccer star David Beckham (66.6m) all made appearances. Bieber and Delivigne walked the runway showing iconic outfits from the show while Beckham spoke about how important the show was to him as he’s so often away from home. These stars and countless others posted about their involvement with the project which connected with the older demographic who wouldn’t know the other, newer influencers involved.
Not to mention the six main actors – David Schwimmer, Matthew Perry, Matt Le Blanc, Courtney Cox, Jennifer Aniston, and Lisa Kudrow – all posted about the reunion. Combined that’s promotion to more than 80 million Instagram followers.
Not only did famous faces get in on the reunion buzz, but so did many different brands. Perhaps you remember “The One with Phoebe’s Cookies,” where Phoebe tries for days to figure out her grandmother’s cookie recipe only to discover that it’s just the recipe on the back of the Nestle Toll House cookie bag. Nestle took to Twitter to announce a contest to win free cookie dough and morsels in celebration of the reunion.
Speaking of Phoebe, one of the most memorable lines from the show is “She’s your lobster!” (ICYMI: this is Phoebe talking to Ross about how he and Rachel are meant to be, because lobster’s mate for life.) So naturally, Red Lobster celebrated the reunion with a special paired menu, with dishes inspired by each of the cast members. They also encouraged people to have Red Lobster cater their reunion watch party. Even Lego got involved by creating a lego set that looks like the iconic Friends apartment sets.