How Netflix’s ‘Bridgerton’ publicity and marketing blitz made the stuffiest era cool again

How Netflix’s ‘Bridgerton’ publicity and marketing blitz made the stuffiest era cool again
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Bridgerton characters with sunglasses and shopping bags
“Bridgerton,” now in its third season, is one of Netflix’s most popular and marketable series.

Jonathan Bailey was fully naked, lying on a slab at a bathing house in Morocco when a woman whispered a sentiment to him that he’d heard countless times before: “I love ‘Bridgerton.'”

The actor, who stars as Anthony Bridgerton in the hit series, was across the world from his home in the UK. But, as Bailey told BI, “You’re never too far from someone who loves ‘Bridgerton.'”

Such is the global reach of Netflix’s Regency-era drama, which released its third season in two parts this spring. Adapted from Julia Quinn‘s romance novel series of the same name and centered on the love lives of eight siblings from a noble family, “Bridgerton” has become a pop-culture phenomenon since its first season premiered in 2020. It’s smashed viewership records, inspired “SNL” skits, and sparked renewed interest in the Regency era’s fashion and culture — all proving that superproducer Shonda Rhimes still has the golden touch.

On paper, a show about high society in 1800s England doesn’t seem like an obvious slam dunk. But “Bridgerton” is not your mother’s stuffy historical drama. From its steamy sex scenes to its “color-conscious” casting to its deliberately modern touches like a soundtrack full of orchestral covers of pop songs, “Bridgerton” grabbed viewers’ attention by offering something familiar yet unique, sexy yet demure.

That’s translated into big wins for Netflix. Season one was viewed by 82 million households globally in its first 28 days, surpassing Netflix’s own projections and dethroning the fantasy series “The Witcher,” which previously held the record with 76 million views; season one of “Bridgerton” is still one of Netflix’s most popular English TV shows. The fan base’s appetite has only grown larger since 2020: A prequel spin-off series, “Queen Charlotte: A Bridgerton Story” premiered in 2023; a web series following one lucky fan couple as they planned the “Bridgerton”-themed wedding of their dreams premiered in 2024.

With “Bridgerton” mania sweeping the world each time a new season drops, brands are also hopping on the bandwagon, collaborating with the Netflix series to release everything from “Bridgerton”-branded bath bombs and body balms to satin pillowcases and scrunchies. It’s a testament not just to the show’s distinct marketability but to its fervent fans, who are opening their wallets and snapping up products so quickly they sell out.

The fans have a point: why simply like a TV show when you can be a part of the Ton?

‘Bridgerton’ provided escapist entertainment during a period of isolation

daphne and simon dancing in bridgerton. daphne is wearing a sheer blue gown, her hair worn half up, and simon is wearing a shining waistcoast and black overcoat. they are looking intently into each others eyes
Phoebe Dynevor as Daphne Bridgerton and Regé-Jean Page as Simon Basset in season one of “Bridgerton.”

“Bridgerton,” created by Chris Van Dusen, was set up for success from the start. With the backing of Shondaland, “Grey’s Anatomy” and “Scandal” creator Rhimes’ production company, it had built-in hype, not to mention a legion of already-established fans of Quinn’s New York Times-bestselling book series.

When season one premiered in December 2020, it also had the benefit of a captive audience. With the world months into COVID-19 lockdown, people were confined to their homes and yearning for connection — or at least, something to watch while sitting inside.

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Then there was the show itself. The world of “Bridgerton” presented an alternate universe: a reimagined Regency era that normalized diversity and had no shortage of drama or titillating sex scenes. All of it struck a chord with viewers.

“I think ‘Bridgerton’ came at a time when we all just really desperately needed an escape,” said Cat Quinn, a content creator who frequently posts about the show. “People just wanted to step into this fantasy that was filled with these gorgeous characters and costumes and sets and storylines — something that was unapologetically romantic and sexy and beautiful.”

The show’s aesthetic took hold: Regency-core became a fashion trend, people suddenly took a lot more interest in drinking tea, and Vitamin String Quartet’s covers saw a surge in streams after being featured on the show in dreamy ballroom sequences and intimate scenes.

It helped that the show’s diversity and deliberately anachronistic choices made the era feel more modern and approachable, like a historical fantasy anybody could feel comfortable reveling in.

“Shonda Rhimes opened the doors of historical period romance to these communities of people who never saw themselves represented in that space before,” Quinn, the content creator, said. “It really set the stage for other releases like ‘Barbie‘ and showed that women’s stories are not only worthy of being told, but also [can be] incredibly successful blockbuster hits and lifestyle brands.”

Will Tilston as Gregory Bridgerton, Florence Hunt as Hyacinth Bridgerton, Luke Thompson as Benedict Bridgerton, Ruth Gemmell as Lady Violet Bridgerton, Luke Newton as Colin Bridgerton, and Nicola Coughlan as Penelope Featherington in the season three finale of "Bridgerton."
Will Tilston, Florence Hunt, Luke Thompson, Ruth Gemmell, Luke Newton, and Nicola Coughlan in “Bridgerton” season three.

Julia Quinn’s 2000 novel “The Duke and I,” which was adapted for season one of “Bridgerton,” reentered The New York Times bestseller list for the first time in years after the show premiered. And this time, more than two decades after “The Duke and I” was originally published, a new audience could dissect the book on a new platform: TikTok.

In the “BookTok” corner of the app, where avid readers discuss their favorite books, users began cataloging the differences between the source material and the show and discussing elements of the novels that didn’t age well. All of it was a boon for sales of Quinn’s novels and the popularity of the often overlooked (but now-booming) romance genre in general, as many viewers discovered “Bridgerton” and then sought out the books to continue getting their fix of the story.

Not only did “Bridgerton” fans read the novels, but they showed off the books themselvesoriginal editions, newer covers, and limited edition variant box sets — on BookTok. One fan even took customization to another level by rebinding the second book and turning the cover into an ornate red-and-gold masterpiece.

The ‘Bridgerton’ aesthetic is eminently marketable

Nicola Coughlan as Penelope Featherington on season three, episode six of "Bridgerton."
Nicola Coughlan as Penelope Featherington in season three of “Bridgerton.”

A show with such potent fan and aesthetic appeal is the perfect storm for brands, who were eager to collaborate with Netflix and Shondaland for product tie-ins. For season three of “Bridgerton,” Netflix and Shondaland partnered with companies to sell everything from makeup and patterned rugs to pet accessories and macarons.

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But these brands didn’t simply put the “Bridgerton” logo on a product and call it merch. Instead, they took care to develop products that feel like they could have been plucked directly from the “Bridgerton” set — or, at the very least, evoke the same feeling of the show.

Cassandra Morales Thurswell, founder and CEO of Kitsch, said that the Netflix and Shondaland teams gave the hair care company “freedom within a framework” to design their products. The result was Kitsch’s season three collection, which uses a print directly inspired by Daphne Bridgerton’s beaded and embroidered dress from season one.

Phoebe Dynevor, left, as Daphne Bridgerton in season one of "Bridgerton. Kitsch's latest "Bridgerton" collaboration, right, inspired by one of Daphne's costumes.
Kitsch’s latest “Bridgerton” collaboration was inspired by one of Daphne’s costumes from season one of the show.

The Republic of Tea released four new teas encased in collectible tins focused on the main characters in season three: a ginger peach vanilla tea for Colin Bridgerton and Penelope Featherington, a lemon mint black tea for Eloise Bridgerton, a rose chamomile tea for Francesca Bridgerton, and a triple Earl Grey tea for the three eldest Bridgerton sons.

The Republic of Tea vice president of sales and communication Kristina Tucker described the process as an “integrated collaboration” in which a select few people at the beverage company got glimpses into the characters and colors that would be used in the season three months before release to help craft their product.

But not every company has a product that’s as seamless a fit in the “Bridgerton” world as tea. Bath & Body Works chief customer officer Maurice Cooper told BI that the company viewed collaborating with “Bridgerton” as “a big opportunity for us to think differently about how we would deepen fandom.”

The company took a cue from one of the season’s most anticipated scenes — “the mirror scene” — and released a gold-colored tilting mirror tray that sold out in roughly two weeks. The 36-piece collection also included a carriage-shaped hand sanitizer holder in an homage to a key scene in season three and a crown-shaped candle holder. To further spread the word about the partnership, Bath & Body Works placed a 10-foot “diamond of the season” candle in New York City’s Flatiron district as part of a two-day activation that attracted fans and curious passersby.

A company once known for fruity body sprays might not be synonymous with Regency-core elegance yet, but Cooper said the collaboration is helping Bath & Body Works build a new identity. “It made sense for us because when you look at the demographic profile of ‘Bridgerton,’ it is a younger audience, it is more diverse, and this is really critical to our growth journey as well,” he said.

Products from Bath & Body Works' "Bridgerton" season three collaboration.
Bath & Body Works teamed up with “Bridgerton” to create a 36-piece collection of candles, body care, and more.

For kitchenware and houseware brand Williams Sonoma, a “Bridgerton” collaboration was an easy way to lean into already rising food and design trends around entertaining, teatime, and picnics.

“You’re seeing so much floral and femininity in fashion, but the same is also true for home design, where maximalism and pattern play and traditional details and ‘grandma chic’ are gaining popularity,” said Kendall Coleman, Williams Sonoma’s vice president of public relations. “It can be very chicken or egg, which came first. But the truth is they’re just playing so well together, and as people are exploring these design trends and these food trends, it’s running parallel to the popularity of that show.”

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Williams Sonoma’s “Bridgerton” collection includes more than 20 products with Regency-era flair: a handwoven picnic basket, a breakable chocolate teapot filled with candy jewels, baking mixes, tableware, and an eight-day countdown calendar with a different surprise for every episode of season three.

All these inescapable “Bridgerton” collaborations walk a fine line between satisfying passionate viewers and oversaturating the market. Season three of the show “didn’t so much premiere as invade,” Los Angeles Times culture critic Mary McNamara wrote in a column about the series’ marketing blitz. Yet she conceded that, for the most part, the series’ publicity tour and brand collaborations have been met with praise.

For now, people are buying into the marketing — literally. Melody Morton, creative concepts director at the cosmetics company Lush, said the brand saw an uplift of 25% in sales from new subscribers for their “Bridgerton”-themed subscription box, which featured products like a Penelope Featherington cleanser and a diamond-shaped body scrub.

Not only did Bath & Body Works’ “Bridgerton” products sell well, Cooper said, but they helped attract younger customers to stores thanks to promotional efforts on social media, where the “Bridgerton” campaign was the company’s “most engaged” effort of the year.

Not to mention, “we had people showing up in Regency garb to buy our products,” he added.

The ‘Bridgerton’ hype is a win-win for the show and for fans

Hannah Dodd, Jessica Madsen, and Jonathan Bailey at the "Bridgerton" season three promenade event in New York City.
“Bridgerton” stars Hannah Dodd, Jessica Madsen, and Jonathan Bailey at the season three promenade activation in New York City.

The weekend before the season three premiere, “Bridgerton” transformed a plaza in New York City into a Regency-style market and promenade that featured items from collaborations with Bath & Body Works, International Delight, Ladurée, Kiko Milano, and more.

More than 2,000 fans and influencers waited in lines spanning several blocks for hours, eager to immerse themselves in the pop-up; catch a glimpse of stars Jonathan Bailey, Jessica Madsen, and Hannah Dodd; and watch dancers perform as live musicians played classical renditions of Miley Cyrus’ “Wrecking Ball” and Billie Eilish’s “Bad Guy.”

Bailey tossed “Bridgerton”-themed bracelets at fans waiting to get in, scents from the Bath & Body Works collection wafted through the air, and people dressed as members of the Ton greeted guests with special issues of Lady Whistledown’s gossip column filled with information about the pop-up’s activities. Madsen and Dodd told BI that one fan even drove 11 hours to attend the promenade takeover.

The event felt exclusive yet egalitarian — exactly like the world of “Bridgerton.” With its expansive marketing blitz, Netflix has shown its crown jewel doesn’t have to be rare to be considered precious.

Read the original article on Business Insider

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