The streaming business had long believed that paying on advertisements did not result in additional views. Marian Lee, the marketing chief, has gradually adjusted this. Netflix made certain that viewers heard plenty about “Wednesday,” the macabre blockbuster starring Jenna Ortega.
They might come upon it in an airport security line while dumping their possessions into a tray labeled “What would Wednesday do?” “Maybe look for the title character on the Uber app when they order a ride.” Or they might see it on TikTok, where everyone from Ukrainian troops to trendy grannies was doing the title character’s arm-jolting, addicting dance set to Lady Gaga’s “Bloody Mary.”
In any case, the marketing resources Netflix devoted to the show aided in its global success. As the amateur dancing videos went viral, Netflix shifted its social media resources from Twitter and Instagram to TikTok. There was also a global campaign in which local marketplaces adopted the tagline “What would Wednesday do?” ” to the taste and culture of their home nation. (In Los Angeles, billboards read, “I read your script; it’s time to reconsider your writing career.”)
The streaming service claimed the show’s eight episodes were seen 1.24 billion hours in the first 28 days, making it the second most-watched English-language series on the service, trailing only the fourth season of “Stranger Things.”
The film “Glass Onion: A Knives Out Mystery” had an extensively advertised (including TV commercials) one-week theater release on Thanksgiving, resulting in a reported $15 million in ticket sales.
Following that, a Los Angeles-based escape room and a handful of murder mystery dinners across the country — as well as more advertisements — worked to keep the buzz going until the pricey star-studded sequel launched on the service at Christmas. It received 279.7 million hours of viewing in the first 28 days, making it the fourth most-watched English-language film on Netflix.\
Netflix’s marketing strategies reflect an evolving strategy for a firm attempting to satisfy an increasingly fickle audience in a much more competitive streaming environment. As it fights with an aging US market, Netflix has also created an advertising tier and is cracking down on password sharing.
It has also largely overhauled its initial creative team, opting for executives with broader preferences in order to serve a worldwide market. Marian Lee, the company’s third chief marketing officer in three years, is tasked with selling this evolution of the world’s largest streaming service.
“I’m trying to enable creativity because I want to offer all of this material to more people all over the world,” Ms. Lee said in an interview at Netflix’s Los Angeles headquarters. “I also want the rest of Netflix to understand the marketing strategy: We are here to support the content organization.”
She had stayed up late the night before to finish the reality show “Full Swing,” and she claimed she cried in her bathroom when it was over. “I’m watching everything, and I’ll tell you where I think this is going to really pop,” she remarked.
Despite its success throughout the years, Netflix has never completely found its feet in marketing. This is primarily due to the company’s primary concept that the streaming service is its best salesperson, and spending on costly ads or advertisements does not always boost audience engagement.
Ted Sarandos, the company’s co-chief executive and former head of content, took over the marketing division in 2019. He hired BBC Studios’ Jackie Lee-Joe as chief marketing officer. Ms. Saint John used her formidable social media presence — she has 424,000 followers on Instagram — to host her own lifestyle events under the moniker @badassboz while running the Netflix marketing team, but her impact on Netflix’s shows and movies proved less fruitful.
Ms. Lee was the worldwide co-head of music at Spotify before Ms. Saint John hired her in July 2021. After Ms. Saint John left, she was appointed to chief marketing officer in March 2022. Ms. Lee’s Instagram account is private, and when she was given Ms. Saint John’s office, she declined, preferring to stay in the one she occupied that was closer to her staff.
Netflix’s marketing spend has stayed relatively stable, rising from $2.2 billion in 2020 to $2.5 billion in 2022. However, Ms. Lee’s 400-plus worldwide team has implemented a subtle adjustment in approach, shifting many of those resources to focus on individual movies rather than the branding of the streaming service itself.
Yet, given that Netflix spends $17 billion each year on programming, the amount of money set aside for marketing remains relatively minimal. When filmmakers and showrunners complain about working with Netflix, they frequently target the marketing department, which they believe is limited by its budget. Traditional studios have attempted to profit on this issue, stating that while they may pay less upfront for a production, they will spend more on marketing to let people know when it will be released.
“The heritage studios spend more on marketing,” Tripp Vinson, producer of the Netflix “Murder Mystery” movie starring Adam Sandler and Jennifer Aniston, explained. The first film was released in 2019, and the second was made available to Netflix customers on Friday.
“But what do I care about as a producer?” You’re saying that the more money you spend, the better your chances of reaching your target demographic using traditional marketing methods. However, I know from ‘Murder Mystery’ 1 that whatever Netflix did to sell this movie, the number of viewers that I got is all that matters. And those were staggering figures.”
The streaming service added a second premiere at the Eiffel Tower in Paris, international billboards, and advertising during the National Football League’s divisional playoffs for “Murder Mystery 2.”
It also collaborated with social media personality Mr. Beast to surprise a couple with a trip to the Paris premiere. The original film returned to Netflix’s Top 10 list a week before its debut, and anticipation for the sequel is high within the corporation.
Bela Bajaria, Netflix‘s chief content officer, refutes the claim that the business has not aggressively promoted individual episodes and movies in the past. “I think the conflict stems from people believing there is just one way to do it, and they don’t realize we market in so many other ways,” she explained, noting that the service’s social media platforms reach 800 million people worldwide.
Filmmakers, on the other hand, have seen a difference in Ms. Lee
“Soon after she arrived, she came down to check what we were doing and visited the set frequently,” said Debbie Snyder, a producer on Zack Snyder’s $80 million sci-fi epic “Rebel Moon.”
The picture, which is set to be released on December 22, is intended to be the first of a trilogy. Did Ms. Snyder receive the same particular attention when the film “Army of the Dead” was released in 2021? “No,” she replied. “No, not at all.”
Scott Stuber, Netflix’s film chairman, stated that Ms. Lee’s marketing department was more in tune with the company’s content side. He was particularly struck by her quick thinking, such as her ability to keep “Glass Onion” buzzing after its theatrical premiere.
“I appreciate someone who knows the old playbook but is equally interested in rewriting the rules for the new playbook,” he remarked.
Ms. Lee’s brand marketing team crammed into a conference room in February to discuss, among other things, “The Marquee,” a collection of high-tech billboards with snappy messages that rotate weekly and appear in strategic locations around the world such as Sunset Boulevard in Los Angeles, Times Square in New York, and Les Halles in Paris.
The board at the Trevi Fountain will be relocated to a different location in Rome, one that is less of a tourist attraction and more of a place where local Netflix subscribers can connect with it; Times Square will get an innovative new billboard that is easier to program but looks like the physical one on Sunset Boulevard. Warsaw will soon have a marquee.
“The objective of the board is to have fun, be edgy, and push right to the brink,” she explained. “I realize there’s a lot of pressure because they have to come up with a fresh message every week,” she continued, “but if they’re simply going to use it for something lame, I’d rather not do it.”