For my entire eleven-year span of working at Netflix, we were content aggregators. All of our content (with the very brief exception of Red Envelope Entertainment original content experiment) was licensed from TV and movie studios.
This meant that if we were to use any visual assets for marketing other than the DVD box art — what’s known as “cover art,” we had to go through the long and arduous process of getting pre-approval by the studios. For a company that loved to learn and move quickly, this was all but a no-go.
Given that we had no assets other than the provided cover art available, we relied on building the Netflix brand around the service itself. We had a well-researched brand promise, “Movie enjoyment made easy” and we applied that consistently across everything we did from product to customer service to marketing.
Which meant our marketing messaging and direction were all about being benefit-driven (as opposed to content-driven). We did not lead with “Now delivering Shrek”, but rather we would lead with something like “Comedy delivered”, show some cover art and use what we called support points (e.g. No Late Fees — Ever!).
We were marketing Netflix as a service, not as content.
Then, in 2012, Netflix Originals launched. Suddenly Netflix went from content aggregation to content creation. The marketing department was re-organized to match this reality and a new CMO from the movie industry was brought in. Within a year Netflix had pivoted to marketing themselves as content, essentially a direct-to-consumer movie studio.
If you’re not familiar with Quibi, whose name is based on “quick bites,” it is a mobile-only app that has nothing but original content. The idea is to have HBO/Netflix level of stars and production but have it cut up into “snackable” 6–8 minute segments. The idea being that it could be consumed during the “moments in-between” — like when you’re in the doctor’s office or commuting on the subway.
Since Quibi had nothing but original content it would’ve been a safe bet that they’d look at what Netflix had done and replicate it. Unfortunately, they did not.
Take for example this pre-launch ad, which is, in essence, a brand ad.
Fun, right? Except, the problem with brand advertising is that it relies on a brand already having high awareness. If it helps, think of brand advertising as “reminder marketing.” If a brand doesn’t have high awareness, once a company turns off the campaign, any awareness it created evaporates almost instantly. Given that Quibi hadn’t even launched yet, there is zero chance that their brand awareness was anywhere near high enough.
Then there’s this ad that features multiple, unrelated stars trying to explain what Quibi is.
For starters, people don’t buy based on facts. Well, at least they don’t initially consider purchasing based on facts. They do so on benefit. So having greenscreen celebrities telling little tidbits about what Quibi is, is likely to be forgotten or ignored.
Then there’s this ad that employs the sizzle reel style. The sizzle reel is when a studio puts multiple clips from movies, hyper-edited together with a song laid over the top of it.
The thing is, sizzle reels use clips are usually of famous stars from highly recognizable movies and TV shows. Again, the idea is to remind the viewer of all this great content. With a service that hadn’t yet launched, Quibi was just throwing a bunch of clips that no one knew about.
Marketing Quibi Going Forward
So, what should Quibi have done? Well, take a page from the Netflix playbook and market each show using psychographics to hone targeting. They should also greatly expand on social media. In short, they need to leverage all of the supposedly great content as much as possible. One of the reasons this approach worked for Netflix is that people who are members and fans of a particular show have friends. And our friends tend to have similar interests. So if I like a show, I am raving about it to all my friends. And some of those friends might not be members yet. See where I’m going with this? They need to stop trying to sell people on the idea of Quibi — and start selling them on the content.
The Future of Quibi
Despite selling out a year’s worth of ad inventory in advance of the launch, Quibi is in an odd place. The now-shuttered Go90, which was essentially attempting to do the same thing, never saw a market develop for it. So it is interesting to see Quibi pursue the same course.
Not to mention that Quibi has made the choice to be mobile-only. Which, unfortunately, coincided with all the COVID-19 global pandemic. You might think they’d have a more captive audience given everyone staying at home but that might not be the case. As it turns out, we’re not on our phones and using apps much less. Why? Because we have bigger screens on iPads, laptops, and TVs that are readily available. Not to mention, there aren’t a lot of “in-between” moments happening when we are stuck at home 24/7. Even the unbelievable meteoric user-generated content king TikTok (which, by the way, I see as their true competition) has seen a dip in usage.
When Quibi launched on April 6th, 2020, even with a 90-day free trial, they only got around 300,000 downloads on the first day. Contrast that with Disney+ who had 4 million (granted, Disney has a legacy brand that is global so it definitely had a much bigger head start). So it is unclear as to whether or not Quibi will be a success. But if they want to have a shot at all, they’d better change up how they market themselves.
P.S. Here’s how I know their approach is waste of money.
Netflix did it too. This is a low res version of one of three TV commercials Netflix made in 2000/2001 that cost a lot of money to make and run but didn’t move the needle because we didn’t have brand recognition…yet.