Netflix has just written the book on word of mouth marketing with the recent campaign for its “semi-original” show “Arrested Development.” Here’s a hint: quality is key.
“Arrested Development” was abruptly cancelled by FOX in 2006, after just three seasons. The now cult classic was nominated for twenty-two Emmys, and took home six while it was aired. Netflix picked up the cancelled show and filmed Season 4 in 2013, which is now available to stream in its entirety.
The new season yielded three times the amount of initial streams than Netflix’s other previous high-profile release “House of Cards.” The company’s advertising campaign should be credited for the success.
For those that have never seen “Arrested Development”, it is a show about a wealthy family (the Bluths) that lost everything, and their son (Jason Bateman) who had to keep them all together. The show unravels as a masterpiece of intricately intertwined comedic genius. It is through the show’s natural quirkiness that Netflixs promotional campaign flourished, which sparked the interest of non-viewers by engaging Bluth lovers.
The campaign relied largely on the base of loyal fans that “Arrested Development” already had. The show has a large following of 18-30 year olds who began obsessively re-watching the show at the first hint of its return. It’s no surprise then, that a majority of the promotions were catered to the devoted fans, alluding to colors and symbols of the show that often left “outsiders” clueless, but intrigued. Brand advocates are one of the most important aspects of word of mouth marketing; the other is providing those advocates with something to talk about.
For example, few things stick out more in Times Square than a giant wooden banana stand. Even more surprising would be the line that extends from the stand as far as the eye can see. The Bluth’s frozen bananas dipped in chocolate are one of the many recurring jokes throughout the show, and fans flooded the stand once word of its presence got around. Anyone not in on the joke was quickly filled in about the stand, and about “Arrested Development,” by the hundreds of fans eager to talk about the return of their favorite show. The end message was communicated through the advocates to the non-viewers in a more personal and trustworthy way than Netflix could have, which has led to the initial number of streams.
The remainder of the campaign used the same hands off approach as the banana stand, as fans took to social media every time they came across something new from the Bluths. Netflix ran a successful campaign solely on the quality of their product, which should be a model for others.
Advocates are important for every company to have, especially as business has moved into a customer relationship oriented field. The key takeaway then, is that in order to gain customers as advocates, the end deliverable has to create value to the customer, so they have something they want to advocate.
After all, I am talking about the new season of “Arrested Development” now, right?