It’s hard to believe that the streaming giant Netflix started life in the doomed world of DVD rentals more than two decades ago. Fast forward 22 years, and the brand has completely changed the way people watch and consume TV and film in more than 190 countries. But it’s not just the seemingly never-ending supply of content that’s kept people paying their monthly subscription fee. Netflix has earned recognition for its consistently original approach to marketing – combining creative content with clever collaborations and, most importantly, an awareness of its audience.
This year, 4th July wasn’t just about celebrating American independence, it also marked the return of one of the most watched TV shows in recent years; Netflix Original, Stranger Things. When the sci-fi series first came to our screens in 2017, the winning formula of 80s nostalgia, endearing young acting talent and irreverent fun made it an instant hit. It’s since given Netflix the freedom to inject just as much joviality into the show’s marketing – and season three’s launch was no exception. Amongst the plethora of experiential campaigns and brand collaborations was a takeover of New York’s Coney Island, complete with a sci-fi pop-up fair and fireworks display; a special Burger King ‘upside-down whopper’; an AR experience at the home of the Chicago Cubs; and a fake 80s-style for Hawkins’ own 4th July fun fair.
Much of Stranger Things’ marketing for season three relied on audiences’ familiarity with the show’s 80s styling and existing connection to the characters. But this technique isn’t always possible, especially when it comes to drumming up support for a brand new film. So exactly how did the Netflix Original film Bird Box become one of the most watched films of 2018? With an uninspiring 62% score on Rotten Tomatoes and 6.8 rating on IMDb, it seemed unlikely to succeed. But it was watched by 45 million people with the first week, and virtually every social media platform was flooded with comments, opinions, and one thing in particular – memes. Netflix embraced these catchphrases by retweeting them and creating their own – including negative ones – and suddenly, the entire Twittersphere needed to feel part of this exclusive club. It also didn’t hurt that A-list celebrities like Kim Kardashian and Chrissy Teigan joined in the online conversation, helping to propel the movie from a mediocre flick into an internationally trending topic.
The key to success for most of Netflix’s marketing campaigns is personalisation. They know exactly what their audience wants – and they give it to them. This comes as second nature to Netflix, because their entire business model depends on offering a personalised service. By tracking what each of their subscribers watches, re-watches, and turns off, Netflix gives each account-holder a homepage that’s completely unique to them – and that’s something their streaming competitors don’t come close to.
Whether it’s memes or merchandise… themed burgers or ad spoofs… all of Netflix’s varying marketing methods are designed to get through to the consumer in a space where they’re primed and ready to be spoken to. And this technique isn’t just limited to TV and movie marketing. All businesses can draw on the power of audio branding to provide a captive audience with a creative, engaging, and altogether original production.