5 Ways Netflix is Winning at Content Marketing
We’re currently witnessing a boom in TV-like content (i.e. Facebook Live) while simultaneously experiencing a semi-revolution in TV and film, in the form of our favorite on-demand content service:
When Netflix launched in 1998, it was predominantly an online DVD rental service for film buffs. Since then, the company has shifted its focus to streaming TV shows, movies, and original content production. It is now the largest streaming media provider, with more than 86 million subscribers in over 190 countries.
Netflix, valued around $40 billion, is home to a vast library of original series, documentaries, and feature films – all available to stream through easy-to-use technology. Netflix reports that its users watched 42.5 billion hours of content in 2015 and reportedly 125 million hours of TV shows and films per day. Additionally, roughly 4.2 million people still get DVDs (in 2010 it was closer to 20 million).
Behind the world’s leading online TV network are clearly some wonderfully savvy marketers who have a lot to teach other content professionals.
Just what are the folks over at Netflix doing right? Here are five ideas to keep in mind as you move forward with your own 2017 content marketing strategy.
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Create Quality Content
This is what differentiates the brand from its competitors.
In 2013, the political drama House of Cards first aired, as Netflix’s first exclusive original piece of content. The success of the show fully launched the company into the content creation side of things. The marketing team behind Netflix’s success knew that in order to keep member momentum and compete with television giants such as HBO and Showtime they had to sustain better – read as “higher quality and original” – content. Since 2013, we’ve seen a whole slew of outstanding media, from Orange is the New Black to Stranger Things, which have cemented Netflix as leaders in this arena.
Many shows have become cult classics and others are pop culture influencers that have permeated mainstream culture. Some of the programming is made for the sake of nostalgia or fan service and some of it is award-show worthy but all of it is made with the intention of pleasing a clearly-defined target audience. Netflix’s commitment to quality is seen in yearly increases in investment of original content; this year they plan to spend $6 billion on originals. With continuing emphasis on original content I’m sure Netflix will continue to reach their end goal of attracting new users (while delighting existing subscribers, of course).
The lesson? Stop curating content and replace your attention on quality original content!
Customer Relations Matter – Know Your Audience
Netflix’s focus on quality (see above) and customer satisfaction are arguably the two most important things that set the company apart from the crowd. Rather than treating each viewer as a single transaction, the business model is designed to be engaging and to foster brand advocates. The company is dedicated to understanding and providing value for its audiences, who have a binge mentality and want instant high quality content. Netflix delivers that. Customer behaviour data helps Netflix stay ahead of the competition and it can help your brand too.
Case in point: When Netflix raises the price of their services, I’m not terribly upset (unlike how I feel when my crappy Internet provider raises its prices) because I trust them to keep providing me with content I want to watch.
Make the Most of Data (which means always be testing)
Be data-oriented, we say it time and time again.
Netflix marketers utilize A/B testing. Not such a novel idea but guess what – it is so so useful. And Netflix’s approach is very detailed and shows a commitment to the user experience. For example, knowing that images influence if a viewer will click to learn more, they test each image that is to be used with each title.
Netflix is known for mining user data and using machine learning. It’s what they do with the data they gather that is impressive. Information such as member statistics, demographics, and interests all play into Netflix offering a highly personalized and delightful user experience. They pay close attention to their users and act based on the insights driven by data. They use subscriber data to guide development.
Online streaming means Netflix knows how long a person watches something, when they watch it, what they search for, and other complex data. Examining changes in customer preferences allows Netflix to then make their own changes and tweak their content offerings to be more appealing to audiences. Having the data that shows what your customers like and want helps you determine what to change in your own company.
The lesson here is that even if a product or service is selling or performing well, you shouldn’t be afraid to change or edit it. Companies fall behind when they fail to improve a product. Remember that a test is just a test – it doesn’t mean that you are committed to change but it does mean that you are getting pertinent information for when a change is needed.
Content marketing is nothing if you don’t actually market the content. Netflix is a pro at native advertising. They have technology and brand partners such as Wired and New York Times who create articles that tie in with certain Netflix content announcements. For example, this piece on female inmates includes a video ad about the Season Two premiere of OITNB. Netflix seems to have mastered the fickle beast that is native advertising; the company is able to deliver content that adds value rather than takes away and does it in such a way that is not overly self-serving and promotional.
Netflix also creates several versions of a trailer, each tailored for a specific audience. Because they have an intimate knowledge of their users they can say, with a fair degree of certainty, ‘Version one is going to appeal more to her because it centers on the political scandal in this particular show.’ Based on the user’s age, gender, and viewing preferences, Netflix marketers can successfully create a personalized promotion to offer to various segments of their audience.
Segmentation and personalization! A few of my favorite marketing buzzwords.
In addition to that, they have a coherent social strategy aimed to please and entertain fans. Take a look at Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram to see what I’m talking about.
This is a little sidebar from the general marketing stuff but Netflix also seems like an awesome place to work. Salaried Netflix employees don’t have to worry about things that other people in similarly-sized businesses do. For instance, workers get unlimited vacation days. They can expense items without waiting on approval from their managers. They don’t have traditional yearly performance reviews. And, to top it all off, they get paid really well.’Use your best judgement’ seems to be a guiding principle at the company. Clearly Netflix trusts its employees, treats them with respect, and grants them certain freedoms so that bureaucratic processes don’t slow them down.
While this company culture has yet to be adopted by other corporations, it is a key component in Netflix’s success. You can read the specifics in the company’s culture deck.
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There you have it! A few lessons to be gleaned from looking at Netflix’s resounding marketing success. What began as a classic entertainment distribution channel quickly evolved into its own content channel that emphasizes quality and originality in all aspects of its business.
Whether you’re a small business, non-profit, or a brand big enough to rival Netflix itself, there is likely something you can take away from this quick review. Focusing on quality content and customer satisfaction seems like a no-brainer to many marketers but it takes a lot of strategy and effort to implement.
I hope these tips are useful and something that you can apply to your own content marketing strategy in the new year. Best of luck to my fellow marketers and if your brand is ever in need of further help, consider a consultation.
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