The Biggest Branding Lesson We Can Learn from Netflix

(Source: Netflix)

$250 million to produce and star in films that garner as low as 0% on Rotten Tomatoes?

“Yes, please,” says Netflix, recently inking another deal with actor/producer Adam Sandler for another four films, following the success of his initial $250 million, four-film deal.

This may seem like a bad deal for Netflix, until you realize that Sandler’s latest movie, Murder Mystery, was the most-watched movie on the streaming service in 2019, despite its 44% Rotten Tomatoes score. Back in 2015, Sandler’s movie, The Ridiculous 6, became Netflix’s most-watched movie ever, despite its 0% Rotten Tomatoes score.

Is the lesson here that we should produce low-quality content in order to attract a bigger audience and more money? Of course not.

Here’s the biggest branding lesson we can learn from the streaming behemoth:

Focus on the Audiences that Matter

While it’s easy to focus on the 56% of critics who didn’t like Murder Mystery, or even the 61% of the audience that didn’t enjoy the movie (the movie garnered a 41% audience score), Netflix is focused solely on the 41%.

There’s a whole slew of Netflix users who would rather watch British comedies and science documentaries than Adam Sandler films and, thanks to behavioral tracking and targeting, Netflix knows exactly who those people are. So they don’t receive previews and suggestions for Sandler films.

In other words, Netflix can find those users who are most likely to watch and enjoy Sandler films and target the hell out of them, critics and reviews be damned. Hence, they can draw huge audiences for his films, keep their users happy and, thus, afford to pay him $250 million.

So it should be with your brand. Jeff Bezos famously said, “Your brand is what other people say about you when you’re not in the room.” But that’s not the whole story. Because if you’re truly building an authentic brand, then you give a shit about what only a fraction of those people are saying about you.

There is a myth that everyone should “get” your brand. Not so. Know your vision, your impact, your message, and your customer. That’s what matters. The others who don’t “get” your brand? Let ’em watch British comedies and science documentaries.

Don’t Be Afraid of Becoming an Acquired Taste

Back in 2017, a video of my speech at the DisruptHR Charleston event draw more than 300,000 organic views (and more than 2,200 “likes”) on LinkedIn. In that speech, I dropped a few “F” bombs and launched an attack on that most sacred of corporate cows: The PowerPoint slide.

To be sure, a number of people expressed their displeasure with my language (and my attacks on slides) via comment and private message. My speech and my style left a bad taste in their mouths.

That’s fine with me.  I thanked those critics for their opinion, and informed them that I’m an acquired taste — my style isn’t for everyone!

To be sure, the mere “likes” and views of a video don’t determine its effectiveness and certainly don’t equal a sustainable, effective brand. It’s important to add trust and authority to the attention to earn.

But this is just one example of how I have built a sustainable, authority brand by not being afraid to repel some people in my effort to attract the people who are receptive to my message.

If Netflix was focused on pleasing everyone, they wouldn’t allow Adam Sandler films on their network. And they certainly wouldn’t allow comedy specials by Dave Chappelle (specials I truly enjoy, by the way).

Sandler’s an acquired taste. Chappelle’s an acquired taste. British comedies are an acquired taste.

And you know what? There’s an audience for each of them.

Do you truly know your audience? Are you ready to focus on speaking to them, even if it means repelling others?

Or are you going to settle for being vanilla?

The latter is a sure-fire way to become a commodity brand instead of building a sustainable, authority brand.


Are you ready to build an authority brand? Click here to register for Curt’s upcoming YOUThority Branding Experience Webinar and start telling your story to the audiences that matter most.

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