How Netflix Changed the Face of Content Marketing

Before Netflix became the media giant it is today, CEO Reed Hastings did what no other streaming service had done before. Instead of only investing in other networks’ programming, as they had been doing since the streaming service launched in 2007, he decided to invest in his own. In 2011, Netflix announced they were foraying into original programming with House of Cards as one of their planned series’. This just might have been the boldest and best decision Netflix could have made.

Say it with me now, CONTENT IS KING. This phrase has become a cornerstone for digital marketers and SEOs alike. If there’s one thing I’ve learned in my first year as a digital marketer, it’s that good content makes all of the difference. This week, many people (myself included) have been gearing up for the highly anticipated return of House of Cards and it got me to thinking about Netflix’s content driven marketing strategy.



High quality content matters

It doesn’t matter how you cut it, there is no substitute for good content. When Netflix enlisted David Fincher, Kevin Spacey, and Robin Wright to helm the pilot, they upped the stakes.  Netflix’s main content strategy does not just lie in the high caliber talent though. They also managed to produce a show that has arguably some of the best writing and production of any show to ever air. House of Cards is a prime example of how good content flourishes. Netflix doesn’t need to invest a lot of money in advertising because if they’ve proved anything, it’s that good content leads to good word-of-mouth and good word-of-mouth leads to high conversion.

  • Takeaway #1: As Ann Handley has said, “Create content that reaches your audience’s audience.” Excellent content yields excellent results.

Give the customer what they want

A big mistake a lot of businesses make is that they don’t quite understand who their target audience is and what they want. Netflix didn’t make that mistake though. They did their research and gave their audience exactly what they had been craving. By releasing all thirteen episodes of House of Cards at once, Netflix changed the way we consumed new media and proved that a happy customer equals success. CEO Reed Hastings commented that releasing all thirteen episodes at once ended up “reinforcing our brand attribute of giving consumers complete control over how and when they enjoy their entertainment.” The bottom line is you cannot sustain your business if your customers aren’t happy.

  • Takeaway #2: Do your homework. Read reviews, talk to your customers, find out what you could be doing better and then do it. Anyone who wants to be successful in business can never afford to stop learning.

Audience Engagement

One of the things I really admire about House of Cards’ social media strategy is how committed they are to engaging in the ongoing conversation, particularly on Twitter. If you take a look at their Twitter page you’ll notice there are numerous replies to people who are talking about the show. Actively engaging your audience helps personalize the user’s experience and makes them feel connected to the brand. This, in turn, helps build brand loyalty and encourages customers to talk about your brand or product even further. Never underestimate the power of good or bad word-of-mouth, especially on social media.

  • Takeaway #3: Talk to your audience. Respond to their comments or messages. Make them feel heard.

Anticipate and innovate 

Don’t get me wrong, Netflix has had a lot of highs and lows, but they wouldn’t be where they are today if they didn’t take risks and stay ahead of the curve. It’s not enough to just keep up with the ever-changing market. You have to anticipate and innovate. As Joe Pulizzi of Content Marketing Institute said,Content marketing is all about telling a compelling story.” Make sure your story is worth hearing.


Like it? Hate it? Wanna chat? Follow me on Twitter @nickibee88


  1. excellent article Nikki !
    Netflix knew what they were doing


  2. I really enjoyed reading this article. Netflix raised the bar with the production of House of Cards and proved safe dumbed down content appealing to a broader mass audience isn’t always the answer, probably because there is an overabundance of safe dumbed down content! I must say they filled a niche that commonly neglected and personally I applaud the action. It was time and a smart move.

    When you observe what’s on major networks especially all the reality shows it is sadly obvious that great writing and quality production have taken a backseat to editors and cutting room floors to create a shock effect of he said, she said. Apparently this is the answer to mass appeal?

    Case in point, understanding and knowing your target audience is so important. If your product or service is something everyone can use you will need to produce content that appeals to the broader sensibilities of a wider range of people. Almost half of the population reads at the 6th grade level comfortably, but you don’t want to lose the other half of the population. So what is the answer? How do we create a good balance? A workable strategy may be to get the message across in the first few sentences, simplify homepages for broader appeal, and write for more sophisticated audiences on separate pages?

    I really liked what you had to say about engaging with your consumers. Over the past few years I’ve been observing companies who “get it” and comprehend the new social consumerism, converting consumers into brand ambassadors and taking advantage of this powerful advocacy … who doesn’t want free advertising right? These companies will survive successfully. Companies that don’t comprehend the power of social reviews and treating people as a number one priority won’t survive, in my opinion.

    So Nicole thank you for your article and not sure if you coined this but I will give you credit for your spot on statement; “The bottom line is you cannot sustain your business if your customers aren’t happy.”

    Off to write a well balanced, thoroughly researched article to appeal to the masses!


  3. Hi J Morgan,

    I would first like to say thank you for reading my article and writing such a thoughtful response. I do agree with your comments about the safe, dumbed down content. It doesn’t matter what industry you’re in, I think people oftentimes get comfortable with producing mediocre, “appeal to the masses” type content because it’s easy and because they probably don’t really have a specific audience in mind.

    I’ve seen many examples of businesses who produce content that very clearly doesn’t have a focused audience in mind. It can be very tricky to find that balance in one piece and I think that’s where a lot of businesses make their mistake. It’s really difficult to craft a piece of content that appeals to ALL customers because let’s face it, you don’t know which level of awareness (http://www.copyengineer.com/post_2012-10-10/) they’re at. Trying to cram all of that information into one piece usually doesn’t work in the end which is why it’s extremely important to decide who the content is targeting.

    I look forward to reading any and all future content you write! Thanks again for reading and commenting!




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