You might not know this but before it was a giant in media streaming, Netflix was a DVD rental company. They would send you a new movie every month for a small fee. So how did a company running what would seem like a dying service become a household name? And how have they continued to dominate the market, making shows that stick in the public mind and have become cult classics seemingly overnight?
Stranger Things. Umbrella Academy. Criminal. Netflix’s original shows like these dominate the public mind. And it is partly due to their quality and amazing acting. But the biggest reason is marketing.
The Netflix Model
Netflix’s marketing plan can be traced back quite a few years. Roughly around 2012. Breaking Bad was the hottest TV on the planet. Everyone wanted to watch it. Netflix was in its infancy as a streaming platform, and one of the first major ones out there.
So, they began offering anyone a 30-day free trial. And this trial had no restrictions. You could share the account and watch however much of anything you liked. Including Breaking Bad.
At the time this was the only place to watch it short of catching it on TV or owning the DVDs. Word of mouth soon got around and everyone was willing to watch this show for free. And then Netflix had them hooked. It’s simple reasoning. If you put a large collection of shows on your service, people are going to start binging. And Netflix was banking on people being halfway through a show when their trial expired. So what do they do then? They pay for an account.
And the numbers stand to support how well this tactic worked. Their subscription numbers soared in the following years. And while they are trailing off slightly now due to the increase in competition, they still stand as one of the giants of the industry.
Licensing to Thrill
A lot of companies fail to realize how effective licensing your IP out actually is. Games Workshop rakes in millions each year as they allow any games company to use their IP, as long as they receive a share of the profit. And Netflix follows this model as well, with a bit more control of how the IP can appear.
Stores like Forbidden planet or Worlds Apart are constantly stocked with Stranger Things merch. Pubs and restaurants are allowed to carry out licensed Umbrella Academy Theme nights and host a stranger things quiz. Liverpool saw a wall on Bold Street decorated with elaborate graffiti for the Umbrella Academy.
It is this sort of tactical advertising that is so effective. If a person is drawn into the advert willingly, without feeling like they’re being marketed to, they are much more likely to respond to it in a positive manner. Netflix tries to avoid classic advertising methods such as TV commercials. They are very aware of how modern audiences see marketing and play it smart and safe.
Netflix’s biggest assets are also one of their supposedly worst traits. They will make anything. And this has sometimes landed them in hot water and led to their streaming platform having more than a few boring shows. But by allowing such a wide variety of shows onto their platform they are ensuring that when a golden show does appear, chances are it will be on their platform rather than on their competition’s sites.
There is a lot to be learned from the Netflix model. The importance of variety. The strategic brilliance in understanding how people respond to adverts. But most of all, commitment to creating more.