You’ve probably heard of Netflix, but what about their on-Netflix-only show House of Cards, a re-make of the original British version? Whether or not you have, you need to be paying attention and taking a cue. Long struggling with customer retention and profit earnings in the wake of Red Box and On Demand features, Netflix took a revolutionary new direction in its marketing. Instead of trying to get your attention via conventional marketing routes, they gave you something to give your attention to. They gave viewers a phenomenally casted, super charged show that was smart, sexy, and just as good if not better than anything on TV. They gave you someone to hate, a villainous yet recognizable Kevin Spacey (who also serves as co-producer) in a role that arguably heralds a comeback for almost forgotten actor.
Available only on Netflix, social media chatter is ripe with fan talk about a show already poised for its second season. No one’s looking (and forgetting) about a Netflix ad that’s popped up somewhere buzzing around like some annoying little gnat – because let’s face it, that’s really how we feel about ads. Instead, they’re talking about something they love and they’re accrediting who’s behind it (Netflix original series), and/or where you can get it (again, Netflix). It’s the best advertising there is.
Netflix also reaps additional rewards from their brilliant marketing ploy, including a Webby nom for best digital series. Its producers also received the Webby Awards for special achievement and Netflix itself won for best streaming media site. The lesson here is that original content trumps traditional advertising. In fact, it’s taking over traditional advertising while also redefining what content means, while also carving out a whole new niche for video content itself.
Netflix isn’t the only one though. History Channel took a small cue from this playbook by creating an entire show around core “Viking” history. The show, aptly named Vikings, has put a dying History Channel back on the maps. People want to be entertained, especially History nerds. The show is so well done, that it’s hard to believe it was produced by a stuffy history channel.
The strategy can be applies to smaller companies too. A Toronto agency, for example, skipped product placement and released a feature movie. Grip Limitedtook their client’s entire ad budget for the year and created a film around it. Instead of dividing the budget across various channels and fracturing it with flimsy product placement, they made regionally sold Kokannee Beer a central component in a very “Hangover-esque” film that…you guessed it…entertains.
The film, called The Movie Out Here, is “a crassly comedic 92-minute feature film sponsored by Kokanee beer. The A-B InBev brand put its entire annual ad budget behind the film, which opened in 30 Western Canadian theaters.”
The takeaway lessons here are to opt for video content that entertains people, that tells a story. If you can’t create video, use other new media methods, like visual arts, or even conventional story telling in a digital platform. Entertain people and sneak your message in. Anything less is outdated and a dying form of marketing. We’ve already seen this pattern emerging with memes, with Pinterest, and even with typography inspired graphics that share a message on a visually engaging platform. Video was only the next natural step in this progression.