YouTube has set the bar sky-high for its new Karate Kid revival series Cobra Kai, which it hopes will become its subscription service’s signature series a la House of Cards or The Handmaid’s Tale. “I want YouTube Red to be the subscription service you can’t live without,” Susanne Daniels, YouTube’s global head of original content, said in this week’s cover story.
And as the company tries to entice its more than 1.5 billion monthly logged-in YouTube viewers to sample the series—all 10 episodes rolled out yesterday; the first two are free for everyone—it has added several Karate Kid-themed Easter eggs to its Cobra Kai YouTube channel.
Whenever desktop users click on a Cobra Kai video, they will see “Wax On” animation (when they pause the video) or “Wax Off” animation (when they press play) in the lower right hand corner of the frame.
Desktop users will also be able to see the famous Karate Kid crane kick on the progress bar of every Cobra Kai video.
And the navigation bar, on the top left corner of the Cobra Kai channel’s main page, can be karate chopped by clicking on it, which will break the three horizontal lines.
Cobra Kai is also taking over the YouTube logo on the page.
The Easter eggs are part of YouTube’s biggest marketing campaign for an original series. In its Cobra Kai campaign, the company is drawing heavily on data gleaned from its own platform, teasers that play up Karate Kid nostalgia and digital activations around Cobra Kai’s launch “that leverage what we know about what works in terms of virality on YouTube,” said Angela Courtin, global head of YouTube TV and originals marketing.
With activations like the Easter eggs and Thinkmodo’s newest Cobra Kai-themed viral stunt, which created a bully’s worst nightmare, “we’re behaving like a creator and using our platform and its tools to really connect with audiences,” said Courtin.
The Easter eggs tap into the nostalgia that Karate Kid fans have for the 1984 classic film, which spawned two sequels, a 1994 revamp (with Hilary Swank stepping in for Ralph Macchio) and a 2010 reboot, starring Jackie Chan and Jaden Smith. But the series itself takes a “restrained” approach to nostalgia, said Josh Heald, who created Cobra Kai with longtime pals Jon Hurwitz and Hayden Schlossberg.
Since The Karate Kid’s release in 1984, “through the years it has been dealt with more comedically than non-comedically,” Heald explained. “It’s been parodied. We’ve heard the song ‘You’re the Best Around’ used for comedic effect in lots of silly things, and there were those one-liners and references in the movie that are on T-shirts. So we knew that there was all of that low-hanging fruit, and we knew we wanted to not grab it.”
Their determination: “When there was something that was really referencing the movies or a little Easter egg here and there, it had to really come from the story. It had to feel like it belonged in this show and that we weren’t crafting a scene around something that was aimed at saying, ‘Ha-ha, you see? From Karate Kid!’” said Heald. “It was important to us that this can stand on its own two legs, but we used the movie as the history.”