What Squid Games Teaches Brands About Consumer & Market Research

Carol Feigenbaum |
 11/12/21 |
4 min read

What Squid Games Teaches Brands About Consumer & Market Research

The online landscape is always treacherous for brands, and this is particularly true around the holidays. How can one come out the other side, and as a big winner to boot, with the pandemic, supply chain issues and any number of concerns combining forces against a brand’s bottom line? The hit series, Squid Games, teaches us some key lessons about what to focus on this season – and how to use consumer and market research to stay top of mind with a fickle consumer base.


This dystopian reality series sports some impressive stats. According to Netflix’ internal data:

  • 111 million households tuned in for at least part of the shows
  • Two-thirds of its subscribers finished the series
  • The show generated nearly $900m in revenue for the streaming platform

This says nothing of the ongoing impact it will have for overarching Korean series and Netflix viewership stats in general, as the series has managed to become an instant cult classic of sorts, commanding a loyal – and somewhat obsessed – following. It’s something any brand would love to attract – and can, with the right strategy. And here, we’ll examine some lessons this faux reality show taught us about consumer and market research, including:

  • Misunderstandings mean big losses
  • Assumptions are dangerous
  • Ways brands can reframe traditional problems with agile solutions
  • Why brand longevity hinges on accurate intel

Let’s dive in!

Misunderstandings Mean Big Losses

As many viewers of the series learned, the dubbed English version of the shows were far from accurate. Some realized the discrepancy as they watched with subtitles on, but others didn’t discover this important fact until after they’d watched most of the series – or all of it! As a result, nuanced and incredibly relevant interactions were lost in translation, much like brands are missing out on relevant and nuanced interactions with consumers. They’re telling you precisely what they want – but are you listening in their language?

Assumptions are Dangerous

And speaking of ‘their language,’ most brands are unaware that a disconnect even exists. And this is huge, as one can’t know how to play the games (and win) if you don’t understand the games themselves. Or, if you assume you can beat the rules because your teammate convinces you that an unsubstantiated claim has potential. Assumptions won’t work. In Squid Games, they can be deadly. In business, they can be as well. You’ll end up with a bag of rocks, instead of marbles – or coffee-flavored tea:


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Reframe Traditional Problems with Agile Solutions

Brands need to rethink traditional problems and come up with agile solutions that put the customer first. Ideas that show them the brand is listening and willing to do the work to come up with real solutions to the challenges that matter. In Squid Games, it was life or death to sort out how to successfully extract the figure etched in the sugar cookie – but who would have known such a simple detail could mean so much? Someone paying close attention would.

The best way to rethink traditional problems for today’s consumers is to understand that they come to the challenge with an entirely different frame of reference. Sustainability provides a timely case in point. Ten years ago, consumers didn’t care much about your stance on the environment nor your sustainable practices. Today, that has completely changed – and any brand with disposable packaging needs to have a plan in place to reduce its carbon footprint. It’s an overdue solution and one many businesses have yet to consider – and need to, if they hope to win business from Gen Z in the coming years!


If your brand doesn’t have this on its radar, it’s facing a longevity problem – one that accurate intel will alleviate.

Brand Longevity Hinges on Accurate Intel

Knowing the difference between tempered and regular glass meant life or death to players. And the same is true for understanding key differences between your consumer subsets. Will they all have the same list of wants and needs? Certainly not, but you can create varied yet personalized campaigns that speak to each of them. It’s really not that hard to sort out in the right lighting, or with the right themes and filters applied.


But it does require accuracy. A tool that gets it right half of the time makes for a lot of frustrated customers and lost sales, or in the case of Squid Games – a 40 ft fall to your death.

Is it really that bad? The intensity of the series is something that any brand marketer can relate to right now – it may not be life or death, but it can feel like it. As Q4 stats roll in, we can use them to help justify additional budget in the New Year or it can signal a shoestring budget rife with struggle. Choosing your tactics wisely this season will make all the difference as to how your fate is decided. Reach out for a demo and we’ll help you win again!

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