Not the plane in the story but a photo by Oliver Holzbauer/Flickr (Creative Commons)

That one time when the engine burst into flames at 20,000 feet…

My story of how the Netflix Latin American launch tour started off very badly.

Barry W. Enderwick
11 min readMay 16, 2018

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Suddenly, there was a tremendous bang. The twin-engine 777 jerked violently to the left. It was immediately clear that it wasn’t turbulence, though what had happened wasn’t clear either. As the plane listed to the left, sour smoke — that smell that comes from burning plastic — poured into the cabin. Every warning light that could flash, did. Then the dispassionate soundtrack kicked in, advocating that we “exit the plane immediately” without regard for the fact that we were 19,000 feet above the planet.

It was fall 2012, and Netflix was set to launch throughout Latin America. Having already launched in Canada, it was the company’s first foray into non-English speaking markets. Keep in mind, this was before Netflix Originals launched, so the tack we were taking at the time was to do research in different markets and launch one by one.

We had spent the better part of the past year traveling back and forth to cities like São Paulo, Mexico City, and Santiago to conduct pre-launch consumer research. By now, the trek to South America had become almost routine. Travel from San Francisco to Houston, Miami, or Washington, D.C., then get on another plane to the final destination.

The plan was to host media launch events in five different countries over the course of seven days. It was a way to show respect for the major markets and the consumers in those markets. Most companies might make their CEO available for remote interviews. We were going to hold press conferences and CEO interviews in-country.

The tight timeline meant that C-level execs had to travel by private jet. There was just no way to go in-depth with national and local media and leapfrog from São Paulo to Buenos Aires to Santiago to Bogotá and then to Mexico City in seven days via commercial air travel.

For those of us on the support team, a private jet would have been an absurd waste of money. But I also faced the dilemma of not being able to make all of the events. So instead I built a team that leapfrogged. I would be in São Paulo, then Buenos Aires, then Bogotá, and finally Mexico City. Our brand manager…

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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