by Emily Coogan

If there's one example of unconventional-yet-effective marketing that you look at this year, make it HBO's latest and greatest - Gossip Girl.
Upon rebooting in July, the show's phenomena has transcended streaming services, embracing social media in a deliberate entanglement (enter Jada Pinkett-Smith on Red Table Talk) of real and fictional universes. Each of the show's principal characters holds active Instagram accounts under digital titles, with some also using Goodreads and Letterboxd, pending their interests. 
The accounts feature snappy captions, spontaneous selfies, food pics, and to-die-for fashion; we can even discover more about the personas by viewing the respective 'Following' lists, filled with A-list names, media outlets, and indie musicians alike. By utilising the platforms of the moment, the team behind Gossip Girl has taken guerrilla marketing to the next level and extended characters from TV screen to social feed.
Gossip Girl Instagram social media strategy
The original series aired six seasons from 2007 until 2012, marking a new age of social media complete with anonymity and constant online presence - enter XOXO, Gossip Girl. At this time, social media was relatively uncharted, characterised by unironic texting and little understanding of digital footprints.
The reboot has entered the zeitgeist at a time when even the youngest of viewers are internet-savvy. Both versions provide a timeless peek into a world out-of-reach for the 99%, selling an aspirational lifestyle with all the bells and whistles (READ: equal parts diamonds and drama). The former Gossip Girl served as a lesson in social media, whereas its offspring teaches viewers the sheer power and influence of social media marketing. 
The machine that is social media offers endless opportunities for consumer connection and further possibilities to advance marketing campaigns, serving as a brand's gateway to the youthful consumer. A high social media presence drives engagement, conversation and shareability - hallmarks of a productive consumer-based marketing strategy.
Interactive characters, social-forward participation, and like-minded programming connect the show and viewers in a real-world way to attract fans at any scale. Involvement with the cast has the potential to drive culture, and we know this won't be the last time we see this brand of experiential marketing and impactful strategy.
HBO Max has inspired a new kind of leverage through a collaborative campaign between producers and viewers - apt with finstas, subtweets, and an inability to hide from Gossip Girl. The new plotlines involve characters primarily concerned with authenticity - a theme which is consistently prevalent in their marketing campaign. The show's audience is much the same, allergic to traditional commercials and pushy advertising tactics; talking to a digital native is a long-term, committed relationship.
The reboot additionally explores privilege in a way that the original show did not, reflecting on wealth according to social influence and status. Such themes are more relevant to the target Gen Z viewership, pandering to an audience that requires a more organic strategy to pique their interest. 
By extending storytelling off-platform, viewers are engaged between episodes and even encouraged to co-create the show, reacting in real-time to posts and scandals. Leaning into the potential of social media has proven to be very powerful, as the new incarnation of Gossip Girl was the most-watched HBO Max original series over its launch weekend.
At a time when social media platforms are riddled with celebrity gossip pages, the official Gossip Girl account and each individual character's profile fit seamlessly into the current landscape. Easter eggs and intriguing posts are scattered throughout the platforms, providing insight into the show and enhancing the series as a whole.
The campaign was accompanied by an SMS hotline for viewers to text in the lead up to the show's release, allowing the audience to receive sneak peeks and exclusive previews of the decadence and absurdities to come. Fans could engage directly with the Gossip Girl persona and immerse themselves in the world of opulence.
The beloved show is no stranger to unconventional marketing tactics, as demonstrated in the campaign preceding Season 2 of the original version in 2008. The show used negative reviews received from critics, superimposed on risqué images of the cast. By spinning the quotes in favour of the show, the original marketing team recognised exciting controversy as an entry point to the series, generating buzz and getting people talking.
Gossip Girl Season 2 advertisements, displaying negative reviews against scandalous images of the cast
Both the original and latest incarnation of Gossip Girl reaches into the tumultuous realm of pop culture, fashion media, entertainment marketing, and social influencers in a way that secures its position as a cultural and marketing phenomenon.
The HBO Max team leads the charge of creating social trends and directly engaging with viewers, merging reality and fiction to teach us all a lesson in social media marketing.
If you enjoyed this piece, make your next read: The Power of Business Collaboration.

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