Netflix Sends Shoppers to Gimbels

It’s become standard operating procedure over the last decade for brands to live-Tweet during big cultural events. In most cases there’s some direct industry or thematic connection between the company and the event, even if it’s just that the company is an advertiser during the broadcast of whatever it is that’s happening or has some sort of other vested interest in what’s happening.

At first this kind of in-the-moment publishing was off-the-cuff and spontaneous, with the content team doing the best they could to keep up with what was going on, though still with whatever sort of abridged approvals processes needed to be in place. Someone from the art department might still be on call if a graphic or image was needed, but for the most part you did the best with what you had. Over time things got more planned, with beats scheduled at specific times. Media brands began partnering with Giphy to share quick-turnaround GIFs of key moments and so on. It all became very structured.

Whatever the situation, the idea remained in place that the point was to promote the brand. That is the key to all content marketing, after all.

During last weekend’s Golden Globes broadcast, though, Netflix showed there’s still some life left in what had become a very formal, stiff and unexciting marketing tactic.

Throughout the show, @netflix had been commenting on what was happening, calling out some of its favorite wins, particularly for shows and movies that the company itself was responsible for. Things got interesting, though, when it posted this comment about the show “Killing Eve.”

When someone pointed out that the show wasn’t one U.S. viewers could watch on Netflix, whoever was manning the Twitter account had the perfect response.

Now it’s a generally accepted marketing principle that promoting your competitors is a bad idea. It’s nice to see someone break that rule.

What Netflix has demonstrated is an idea my colleagues and I have been pushing for years. Namely, that there’s little to no danger to a brand in acknowledging there is a broader industry that they are part of and that their audience or consumers are aware of. You don’t always need to go all out and promote what your competitors are doing and selling, but pretending it’s not there is a silly charade that’s not fooling anyone. If anything, it makes you look out of touch and ignorant if you don’t.

If anything, you have to look at what Netflix did here through the lens of the company’s larger mission. They want to encourage people to watch streaming media and have an active interest in promoting quality content. In the long run they are also working to attract top-tier talent with lots of buzz and audience awareness since that’s what will attract new subscribers to the original material they release and which is a more important part of their business model as other media companies rethink existing licensing deals.

That means acknowledging how great “Killing Eve” is and how incredible Sandra Oh and Jodie Comer are is in the company’s long-term best interests and therefore completely on-brand.

Netflix certainly garnered a fair amount of attention for calling out a show currently available on Hulu, just as the Twitter accounts for Moon Pie, Wendy’s and others have when they’ve engaged in conversations (sometimes friendly, sometimes passive aggressive and snarky) with the accounts for other companies in or out of their markets. It’s not a well to be drawn from too often as there’s a fine line between clever and stupid, but for now it’s nice to see someone realize there’s value in taking off the marketing blinders and giving a shout out to quality products in the wider world.

Author: Chris Thilk

Chris Thilk is a freelance writer and content strategist with over 15 years of experience in online strategy and content marketing. He lives in the Chicago suburbs.

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