brand content strategy

How Netflix Is Dominating With Their Brand Content Strategy

Over the years, slowly but surely, Netflix has morphed into an original content machine.

At the same time, they have honed their brand content strategy into an incredibly sharp tool.

One that literally mows down their competitors.

Look at their brand growth numbers:

  • In 2016, Netflix reached over 109 million streaming subscribers worldwide (that’s one gigantic list).
  • The company additionally raked in well over $8 billion in revenue during 2016.
  • And, according to Tech Crunch, over 75% of U.S. households subscribe to the streaming service.

Netflix’s success has been staggering. Some have even touted that the company is changing movie culture as we know it.

Think of one streaming service that competes nose-to-nose with Netflix. Which ones have the same amount of quality shows? Which ones offer original content at the same level?

There are competitors (like Hulu and Amazon), but let’s face it: Right now, there is no competition. Not for content, not for content delivery, and not for content promotion and engagement.

Nobody says “I’m going to stay home and watch Amazon” when asked about their plans for the night.

Instead, the following phrase has become part of the cultural consciousness: “I’m going to watch some Netflix.”

So, how do they do it when it comes to marketing?

You might be surprised to know that Netflix heavily relies on content marketing, and key brand engagement strategies that every content marketer can implement.

Read this guide — all the way through — and be inspired with your content efforts.

Let’s delve into Netflix’s brand content strategy.

netflix brand strategy

How a Blazing Brand Content Strategy is the Formula for Netflix’s Dominance

Netflix’s brand content strategy is obviously strong.

But why, exactly, does it work so well?

Let’s start with a look at their history.

The Early Beginnings: How Netflix Became an Original Creator

Let’s explore their history first, a bit.

Netflix used to merely offer up a buffet of movies and TV shows created by others. Now, they’ve got their own table groaning under the weight of shows cooked up in their very own kitchen.

For example, look how many of these shows have the Netflix logo stamped proudly above their titles:

Note the ratio of “Netflix originals” compared to the amount of off-brand content in these feeds. Every other option – more than every other option – is from Netflix’s own studio.

The thing is, nobody is complaining. People are eating up Netflix’s original shows and asking for more.

Some shows have reached beloved, cult-status territory. Think Stranger Things, House of Cards, and Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt. Others have been outright hits – Mindhunter, The Keepers, Orange Is the New Black, and The Crown come to mind.

6 Ways Netflix is Killing It With Their Brand Content Strategy

Now, let’s piece together how it all ties up into a neat bow (a red one, naturally).

1. Using the Data at Their Fingertips (Can You Say “Content Audit”?)

Netflix’s success didn’t come from lucky guesses or half-hearted research about what their audience wants.

Think about it: Before it started producing original content, the streaming service already had tons of data to work with from looking at their customers’ habits. This included how people watch TV and movies, what they like to watch, and when they prefer to watch.

This was undeniably a huge advantage for them.

A giant amount of information about user preferences was ready and waiting to be turned into audience-specific content gold.

They looked at what was winning with viewers, and they ran with it. This kind of content audit proved vital to the success of their fresh content ventures going forward. And, there’s no doubt looking at the data will continue to do so.

2. A Defined Target Audience

Let’s backtrack and look at Netflix’s current roster of new shows out right now.

You may notice a bit of a pattern appearing:

Are any of these shows for children or families? Would they appeal to the average teenager? What about seniors?

No, no, and no. Netflix quite obviously has their target audience cornered.

Over and over, they target their shows to the 18-49 age bracket. Of course, there are always exceptions, but most of these shows will only appeal to adults looking for smart plots, escapism, or nostalgic escapism (Stranger Things is arguably a love-letter to ‘80s movies, while Godless is a modern take on Westerns that still has all the hallmarks of the genre).

Here’s the key, though. They’re sitting at the intersection of knowing their target audience and understanding that audience’s preferences. What Frank Sinatra sang about love and marriage applies here, too. You can’t have one without the other.

Netflix knows their customer and what they want to see. (The aforementioned content audits/data analysis helps, undoubtedly.) The content they produce reflects that to a tee.

3. The Brand Content Strategy Crux: High-Quality Content Pushed Out Consistently

Part of Netflix’s success is the quality of their shows. They keep putting out binge-worthy, good stuff.

Just look at this list Thrillist put together of the top TV shows of 2017. Many lists like it are out there, but they all have one major similarity: Netflix is overwhelmingly the top media producer represented.

Others make appearances, like HBO, NBC, and FX, but Netflix beats them all for the highest number of shows on the list.

Out of 42 total, 11 are from Netflix. That’s over a quarter of the pie.

Their commitment to quality is part of the reason viewers come back for more. It’s additionally why Netflix is practically a household staple.

However, the way they deliver their content is of equal importance.

Strategic Release Dates

Instead of releasing new shows and new seasons of shows randomly, Netflix does it strategically.

Look at the release of Stranger Things 2. In the U.S., the streaming service dropped all episodes on October 27, which happened to fall on a Friday. For the show’s creepy, ‘80s-monster-movie-adventure vibe, the weekend before Halloween was a perfect launch date. Plus, to make things more perfect, the show’s action in season 2 took place around Halloween.

Don’t forget, the weekend is the best time to binge-watch a new season of your favorite show. (Around the release date, Time even proclaimed “Stranger Things 2 Is Your Halloween Binge.”) You can bet that Netflix banked on all that.

stranger things

It totally worked, too. During the first three days the episodes were available, the show pulled in over 15 million viewers from the target demographic, 18-49 year-olds.

This is a great example of how publishing your content at the right time can have dramatically awesome results.

I’ve tied content pieces to strategic publishing dates: this Thanksgiving, for example, we launched a holiday-specific infographic on how to map your content marketing strategy out like a perfected Thanksgiving feast. It had far more shares and traction (including in our Facebook group) than many of our non-seasonal pieces of content. So, this particular content strategy can work for any size business – not just a brand as big as Netflix.

The Netflix App: A Superior Viewing Platform

High-quality content served to viewers consistently and strategically is huge, but what else contributes to Netflix’s content dominance?

Answer: their viewing platform, including their apps across devices. Netflix delivers content only on their own turf, and they do it very well. Here’s what Venture Beat says about it:

“…it can take eons to scroll through a category of shows or movies on Amazon to see what’s there. In contrast, the Netflix app lets you glide through with nary a hiccup.”

The Verge, meanwhile, calls Netflix’s app “a TV channel programmed just for you” and “one unified TV interface to rule them all.”

The Netflix Tech Blog describes why the design works, but it really boils down to a few basic ingredients:

  • It’s clean, readable, and stylish
  • It’s tailored for users
  • It highlights the content, especially the original content
  • It helps you find what to watch with mini trailers, descriptions, and screenshots – which essentially sells the content

Netflix doesn’t just nail content, they also nail how that content is served to their customers.

On-Demand Streaming vs. Live Streaming

Another brand content strategy choice that works well for Netflix is staying true to their commitment to providing ad-free, on-demand streaming to their customers.

Many other streaming companies are looking at (or have already moved into) live streaming territory backed by ads, but not Netflix.

Many critics and competitors have questioned this decision, but the company has stubbornly stuck to its guns. It will continue to commit to quality rather than changing its core service just to compete. This is definitely a differentiator for them.

Forbes puts it this way:

Netflix is aiming to build a portfolio of movies which will attract and retain viewers and optimize the cost of licensing these movies in relation to the number of subscribers who watch them. The company has categorically stated that its focus is on ‘on-demand commercial free viewing rather than live, ad-supported programming.’ This should help Netflix to stand out from its competitors and attract more subscribers.”

4. A Distinct Brand Voice

Now that we’ve covered Netflix’s content creation strategy, we can move outward to how the company presents itself across the web and promotes its own content.

To start, Netflix has a distinct brand voice that fits with the main audience they serve and the content they create.

The humor is a little dry, a lot witty, and plenty snarky. The key, though, is that it’s consistent across all their social channels.

5. Seriously Engaging Content Promotion

Netflix also promotes its own content in a compelling way. They regularly post videos to Facebook with mini trailers of their newest or upcoming releases, like this one for Mindhunter season 2:


They also do video posts that show you ideas for what you can watch right now to get into the current season.

Here’s a good one with suggestions for what to watch with your family around the holidays (with their customary dry, witty brand voice adding that these films are “safe to watch with your parents”):

Note the engagement on these posts.

It’s always high:

But it definitely helps that Netflix engages back.

They tweet at and retweet their followers and celebrity fans:

They respond to comments:

And poll their followers:

The result is they’re a fun company to follow. They engage and promote in equal measure while retaining their brand voice, which helps boost their overall success.

6. Little (If Any) Traditional Advertising

One thing you may or may not have noticed about Netflix is its lack of advertising – at least, traditional advertising.

Can you even determine the last time you saw a Netflix ad for its services, or one of its shows?

That’s because it doesn’t run many of them, whether that means Facebook ads, TV commercials, or other spots.

Instead, the company mainly relies on content marketing to get the word out. Their subscribers grow, and their audiences binge new shows, based on high-quality content, social media engagement, and the resulting word-of-mouth.

In other words, it’s an organic brand content strategy.

AdAge even named Netflix their 2016 Marketer of the Year, and specifically attributed the company’s success to content marketing:

“Ultimately, Netflix’s content is its biggest marketing tool, said Michael Goodman, director of digital media strategies at Strategy Analytics. The company has managed to turn out enough high-quality content to satisfy subscribers and pique the interest of non-users.”

Netflix is one of the only major, global brands doing this, too. On top of that, it seems to be working quite well for them (which may be the understatement of the year).

The One-Two Punch for Netflix: A Killer Brand Content Strategy

Netflix seems to be doing everything right.

They have seamlessly transitioned from exclusively serving other people’s content to dishing up mostly their own.

Granted, they started small, and they had years to hone their game plan. (Remember when they rented DVDs out by mail?

Unbelievably, that service is still available.)

However, there is much to learn and take away from their current brand strategy. We can look at their successes, understand how they happened, and apply them to our own content marketing.

From their content, to how it’s delivered, to their social media presence and their brand voice – all of it is worth analyzing for inspiration.

If you’re smart, you’ll take note.

As for me, this blog is done…

And now I’m gonna go relax and watch some Netflix.

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brand content spotlight

Cool Brand Content Spotlight: 6 Ways Farmers Insurance Wins at Incredibly Great Content (in a Boring Industry)

There’s a brand out there that is able to seriously transform dull into delightful.

You’ve seen the commercials.

Actually, we all have.

From partying deer in your backyard pool to dogs performing water ballet after flooding the kitchen, Farmers Insurance has seriously catchy advertisements on TV.

Their commercials alone get you excited about their brand, and what is even more captivating is their tagline. “We know a thing or two because we’ve seen a thing or two.”

It’s catchy, but also tells you that Farmers has been around for a while and that they are prepared to tackle just about any claim you have to give them.

That’s superbly brilliant advertising. They’re establishing their superiority, longevity, and expertise in a single sentence.

Did you know that they go well beyond that with their content marketing? From their blogs to helpful guides, all the way to social media, you’d be surprised at how word savvy the people behind Farmers Insurance really are.

(PSA: Krystal leads our brand content spotlight initiative (her post on Denny’s was marvelous). I just had to step in and add one of my own today :-))

brand content spotlight

Insurance Isn’t Sexy, & Farmers Knows That: Here’s How They Turn that Around

Let’s face it; we all know that insurance is not a sexy or compelling topic.

People usually gag at the idea of having to hunt down a new insurer for anything. It’s one of those pesky things in life that we all need, but dread.

Yet, Farmers Insurance tackles the natural urge to run and makes their brand fun, engaging, and almost exciting to interact with.

They are all about creating compelling experiences in their content, from social media to YouTube to the articles and guides on their website.

That’s why I’m here highlighting them: because Farmers Insurance took a boring topic and made it fun. That’s skill.

6 Ways Farmer’s Insurance is Brilliant at Brand Presence (& Great Content)

Let’s look at six ways Farmer’s Insurance takes the cake with an incredible brand presence.

1. Farmer’s Kills it on Facebook

Are you following Farmers Insurance on Facebook? If not, you probably should.

They belt out tips on a weekly basis that are not regurgitating the same facts you have heard over and over.

For example, here’s this post about a hand-crank charger for your car’s battery this winter! I didn’t even know one existed.

The social media team behind them is excellent.

While they don’t have thousands of shares yet, if you follow them, you notice that they are quickly gaining momentum in followers and shares. That’s quite impressive for an insurer on Facebook.

2. Expert Tips and Articles to Guide Customers as well as Non-Customers

Farmers Insurance does not discriminate. Instead, they provide valuable information to all.

Neil Patel’s post on Content Marketing Institute highlighted how Farmers Insurance empowers customers with excellent information. He specifically focused on their Inner Circle content. Here is a resource center that is created to provide consumers with information (whether they are customers of Farmer’s or not).

Farmers-Insurance

Their information does not just focus on insurance-related topics. They also provide information about anything life throws at you.

Getting divorced?

Lost a pet?

The Inner Circle tackles your biggest hurdles in life and provides you with well-thought-out advice on how to cope.

3. They Create Easy-to-Digest Content

What is more impressive about Farmers Insurance content is how easy it is to read.

They include statistics and facts — showing that all their content is well-researched.

However, they break it down and make it easy to consume. When you walk away from a post, you feel educated and empowered.

Take this post on easing student debt:

See how they give you the facts first to help you understand the problem with student debt? They also show that they are more than aware of the issue student debt poses for consumers.

After they reel you in with the problem, they dive into their solutions. They don’t just offer a quick bullet list of solutions either. Instead, they provide real-life solutions that include savings plans, insurance policies, and even encouraging children to work.

4. They Touch on Real Pain Points & Get Relatable

What is brilliant about Farmers is the fact that they know how to touch on pain points in their content.

Pain points are one of those areas that are not easy to dive into. According to Henley wing at Buzzsumo, these topics are things people do not like to talk about, but if you can successfully bring them up, you get a conversation and following going for your benefit.

The content from Farmers touches on topics like death, divorce, debt, and failure. However, they take it in an approachable way and make it easy for customers to solve those sensitive issues.

More importantly, they establish themselves as the go-to resource for customers and non-customers alike.

5. They’re Simply Genius (Example: The Hall of Claims Content)

Okay, we’re back to the commercials.

Now, some of these claims sound outrageous, but if you visit the Hall of Claims on Farmers Insurance website, you are surprised to find out that these were real-life outrageous claims that their agents have handled and settled in the past.

That’s pure genius.

They take the outrageous, hilarious, real-life events a person suffers and makes it into a commercial.

Naturally, they embellish them a little for entertainment value, but they bank on the fact that life happens and they make it a reality in their pitch to consumers.

farmers insurance example

View all the Hall of Claims videos on their YouTube.

6. Let’s Not Forget: Farmers Establishes Their Capability to Cover Just About Anything

The entire purpose behind Farmers’ content is to show that they have experience.

They do this through their Inner Circle articles, YouTube videos, claims assessments online, and of course their hilarious commercials.

By employing actor J.K. Simmons, they were also able to tack on an infamous Hollywood voice and face to their branding — giving them even more credibility.

Let Farmers be Your Muse: Turn Your Boring Industry into Sexy Content

Are you in a boring industry? Take heart from Farmers Insurance.

Take what is the “norm” for your company and turn it into something exciting just like Farmers did with their off-the-wall insurance claims.

By thinking outside of the box, Farmers has revamped their brand and created a content marketing strategy that appeals to all ages, because they establish themselves as a company that gets it no matter what “it” is.

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brand content spotlight

Cool Brand Content Spotlight: How Denny’s Wins at Social Media

We need to talk about Denny’s.

I’m from New York City. Born here, raised here, still here, and will probably die here.

If you’re from the New York tri-state area, you know that diners are a dime a dozen. I’ve only been to one Denny’s, and I think it was in Oregon.

So why, might you ask, do I care about Denny’s?
brand content spotlight featured

Cool Brand Content Spotlight: How Denny’s Wins at Social Media

That’s why Denny’s is unlike any other social media account I’ve ever encountered. They don’t actually promote any of their food on a regular basis. In fact, it’s a rare occurrence. They’ll throw in some tweets about… foodstuffs. Food that’s on their menu – sometimes.

Bottom line: it’s unpredictable. When I first came upon this social media presence a year ago, I had no idea how or why their marketing team had chosen this approach. That confusion was short-lived. Because a year later, I still think about Denny’s tweets and share them with my friends.

Where else can you get lowercase quips about The Walking Dead with a reference to food?

In some ways, it’s impossible to describe how these tweets make me feel. It’s akin to stumbling upon scrupulous spam like @Horse_ebooks:

Or an account like @dril:

Weeks later and I’m still laughing at that tweet.

This sort of social media posting is like a free-association experiment. I’ve no doubt in my mind that whoever runs their social media was around for the birth of You’re the Man Now, Dog and 4chan.

Ytmnd-screenshot

My people.

What Denny’s Does Right: Niche Content Audience-ing

That being said, Denny’s is clearly targeting Millennials and Gen X’ers. I’m still not sure which one of these I belong to; though for the sake of my ego I’ll go with Gen X. We were around for the birth of memes, both creating them and sharing them. Moot was a household name for us (I had the odd honor of working with him professionally many years later in Manhattan — touche!), and may or may not have (almost) failed out of college because of late night raids in World of Warcraft.

Denny’s knows this demographic. They know quirky memes and they embrace the randomness that certain niches of the internet also embrace, even desperately fall in love with. Who needs proper grammar and punctuation? Not Denny’s.

They win because they make your brain associate good feelings with their product. Let’s call it the Meme Sensation. It’s that instant gratification that you feel when you find a great meme. It makes you chuckle, makes you hit the little Retweet arrow, or copypaste it into your Facebook Messenger group chat.

In Denny’s case, their social media makes you want to join their business’ culture, not necessarily hook you in with their food. You’re investing in the brand, which in Denny’s’ case, is a weird world of puns and run on sentences. It’s how we (my generation, the just-turning-thirty-year-olds) talk when we’re really excited about something. You know, caps lock is cruise control for cool. So when you RT that weird tweet about eggs or how scared of Negan we all are, you associate it with Denny’s. It’s a brand new world of marketing, akin to getting jingles stuck in your mind – only this time, it’s something entirely different.

Denny’s embraces the randomness that certain niches of the internet embrace, even fall in love with. Who needs proper grammar and punctuation? Not Denny’s. And yet, it’s still highly unique and marketable.

What Denny’s Needs To Work On

Pet peeve alert! Despite how quotable Denny’s is, the fact is they don’t seem to engage with their customers. I talked about my great interaction with @PenguinRandomHouse in an earlier blog.

Interaction like this would only further cement their fans’ loyalty. We are all attention-starved on social media, after all.

For instance, Denny’s passed up a perfect opportunity to get involved in some great, free marketing. Widely popular webseries @GameGrumps (SHOUTOUT TO MY OLD FRIEND @egoraptor) engaged in exactly the kind of random quirky banter with a bunch of food chains’ social media, and Denny’s missed the mark and never replied:

This thread is absolute gold, by the way. I highly recommend checking it out.

Conclusion

Honestly? I don’t know if I’ll ever go out of my way to go to a Denny’s while I’m at home. But if I’m outside of NYC and need American comfort food, their tweets will definitely come to mind. They’re tapping into an unconscious need to laugh at random stuff that your parents wouldn’t even begin to understand. The stuff you find yourself remembering and laughing about on the toilet at 3am.

The difference? It’s connected to a company. And it’s 3am. Guess who’s open at 3am?

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