Red envelopes from the days of yore.

Brand and the early days of marketing Netflix

Building brand takes work and consistency.

Barry W. Enderwick
6 min readJul 9, 2018

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By now, everyone on the planet knows Netflix. I have had my share of people over the years say to me, “man, marketing Netflix back in the day must have been easy because it was such a no-brainer from a value standpoint.” Nope, that wasn’t the case at all. In fact, we were not only trying to get people to buy into the service but modify their behavior (the process by which they rented movies). Perhaps some context and an example of how we went about it are in order.

The business environment in 2001

By April of 2001, when I was hired at Netflix, the dot-com bust was in full swing. Company after company with either flawed business models or poor execution were imploding. Mainstream consumers hadn’t been buying online all that long and this didn’t help win them over.

These had not been launched yet.

There was no social media yet. Friendster was founded in 2002, MySpace in 2003, Facebook in 2005, Twitter in 2006, and Instagram in 2010. So no free or paid marketing opportunities there.

The smartphone, which has changed not only the way we interact with the internet but how we watch entertainment didn’t really exist. It wouldn’t for another 6 years until the iPhone ushered in the smartphone era.

And DVD players, while starting to mainstream, were still a bit expensive and as such still very much had an early adopter audience.

Yep, this was once expensive.

As you can see, marketing the subscription-based, DVDs-by-mail was not necessarily a slam dunk.

Renting movies in 2001

If you wanted to rent a movie, you went to the video store. The largest operation was, of course, Blockbuster. In hindsight, it was…

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Barry W. Enderwick

Brand/marketing executive, Kaizen (ex Netflix). I write on startups, strategy, business, culture & design. Also Sandwiches Of History on Insta/TikTok/YouTube