Last month, NBC released a 9 minute, 28 second snippet of the pilot episode of their new show, Manifest, on Twitter. The show comes with an interesting premise: a plane takes off in 2013 and doesn’t land until 2018. But to the passengers, the flight felt continuous.
The snippet ends on a cliffhanger, leaving viewers dying for more. They’re hooked. Now they have no choice but to tune in for the premiere.
It was a brilliant marketing strategy — a page ripped right out of Netflix’s playbook.
You see, Netflix didn’t get to where they are just from the quality of their productions. Hell, throughout TV history there have been plenty of shows cancelled before their time.
Sure, their original series are spectacular, but where Netflix truly excels is in their marketing. The way they actually get eyeballs on their shows.
Traditionally, when a network plans to release a new series, they run commercials during prime time on their own network. These 30 to 60-second spots run between football games, news segments, and their other existing programs.
Being an online streaming service, Netflix doesn’t have the luxury of regularly scheduled programming. On the surface, this could appear as a weakness. But the media giant turned it into a strength, despite what some business experts might say.
The lack of a conventional channel forces them to get creative when it comes to promoting their new Netflix Originals.
They’ve run everything from billboards to editorials in the New York Times. But social media is their bread and butter. And they’ve leaned heavily on viral content to do most of their legwork.
Shows like Stranger Things and Ozark seemingly exploded through mainstream social platforms like Twitter.
Stranger Things hits the ground running and never stops. I haven’t been this hooked on a tv show in a LONG time. Duffer Bros, 👏🏼 BRAVO 👏🏼
— Spooky Spice 👻 (@mbdubs_) July 30, 2016
— Jonathan Castanien (@anotherjoned) July 30, 2016
15 minutes into ‘Stranger Things’ and I’m so damn sold.
— Jeremy Olander (@jeremyolander) July 30, 2016
Word of mouth is a powerful tool in the digital world.
For instance, you might see a tweet from an old high school friend talking about a show you’ve never heard of before.
You do a quick Google search and discover that it’s a new Netflix series. Then you watch an episode, fall in love with it, and, next thing you know, you’re telling all your friends and family about it too.
In that instance, how much did Netflix spend to acquire those viewers? That’s right, $0.00.
It’s not just Netflix’s original series creating buzz. It’s their TV revivals too. NBC’s The Office is a prime example. The show ran for nine seasons, ending in 2013. But it’s never been as popular as it is now — five years later.
Rainn Wilson, who stars as Dwight Schrute on the show, sums up this phenomenon:
“The Office started to dwindle in its last several years on NBC. And the audience went down. It was super positive in 2008, 2009, 2010…then it kind of faded a little bit, and went away. And then all of a sudden it was two years ago that I started getting recognized more than before. And it’s because of Netflix, and a whole other generation that has seen it.”
An endless barrage of The Office memes, gifs, and tweets flood social media timelines across the globe. It’s gotten to the point where silly tweets like this get 271,000+ likes:
When Michael Scott said “I’m going through a little bit of a rough patch. The whole year actually” I really felt that
— Austin Ames (@ARSondag) September 25, 2018
The fact is, much of their marketing is done through completely free methods.
Big brands often take a conservative approach when it comes to their social media accounts. But Netflix separates itself with its lighthearted, humorous tone.
full disclosure im all of these right now pic.twitter.com/vhvg0cNUrr
— Netflix US (@netflix) October 1, 2018
They interact directly with their viewers on social media, establishing a friendly rapport with everyone they come into contact with. They also understand the power of FOMO (the fear of missing out). And they can leverage it without any real effort.
After all, no one wants to feel like an outsider amongst their friends and co-workers discussing the latest Netflix Original.
All it takes is one tweet, text, or Instagram comment to push a non-subscriber to pony up and pull out their credit card. Nobody wants to miss out on that water cooler conversation!
What started as a DVD-by-mail service quickly transformed into a media giant. They’ve disrupted the TV industry as we know it, generating over $11.6 billion in revenue in the process.
Their stock price skyrocketed from $50 to over $370 per share in just five years. Yesterday, Variety reported that Netflix consumes 15% of all internet bandwidth globally, “the most of any single application.”
Pretty incredible stuff.
While the entertainment industry will undoubtedly change over the coming years, marketing is the one component that will never go out of style.