Bird Box & The Marketing Power Of Netflix


Unless you have been living under a rock I am sure you have heard of Bird Box… a movie that has entered into 2019 with a bang (plus a heck of a lot of memes in tow). So why has Bird Box, a Netflix Original become the most talked about topic of the year so far?

Let’s look at the stats first. Bird Box was watched by over 45 million Netflix accounts in the first seven days of opening (and I know three households use my one Netflix account so that will be a conservative number in the scheme of things). This makes it the biggest launch for any Netflix Original production to date! Also note, that seemingly for the first time ever, this number was actually give to us via Twitter, from Netflix themselves… an unusual move, and 100% a marketing tactic!

bird box Netflix

So lets chat about Bird Box and other Netflix recent success stories so we can pull some marketing inspiration that is implementable into our businesses today… what are two things that Netflix manage to create? Impact and shareability….


Netflix is very clever at picking content to push that has huge impact and Bird Box was no exception with most of the impact coming in the form of social media chatter (aka, memes galore, but more on that later). We seen major impact from Netflix with the arrival of Black Mirror: Bandersnatch, an interactive movie that got everyone talking, and frustrated in the best possible way. This impact came in the form of the interactive feature which was essentially, a first to market. It was different, original… it got the audience curious and moved the benchmark for how we consume movies, meaning it had a ripple through the entire movie industry. We also seen this in recent years with Making A Murder, not a Netflix Original, but a documentary detailing the wrongful rape conviction of Steven Avery, who was exonerated after 18 years in prison, and then convicted again for murder. We see the case from start to finish including all the ‘plot holes’ in the prosecutions case against Avery. The makers of the documentary originally took the project to other major networks PBS and HBO, but were knocked back, and this is when Netflix scooped it up, spotting the opportunity to make impact.

Making A Murder not only gained a huge international audience but it also spurred a petition which was taken to the White House to attempt to pardon Steven Avery. While the petition was not successful it is an example that Netflix serves as a catalyst for change, it is a powerful platform that can garner large amounts of attention, not just in the entertainment realm, but even spanning to politics and beyond. This impact resulted in news reports, thousands of social media posts, major celebrity engagement, a response from the White House and so much more… what does all this mean in a marketing sense? MASSIVE exposure for Netflix on an international scale, a marketing and PR dream!

How can we relate this to our marketing efforts? It is simple, be open to opportunities, stand out from the crowd and importantly create quality content that is going to impact your audience. Plus remember, Netflix have hundreds and hundreds of shows available to watch, but not every show is going to be an international hit for them. This is the same with your content, not everything will spike your website traffic, enquiries or sales… but keep going, be consistent and produce quality work, whatever industry you are in!


Another thing that all these Netflix success stories have in common is that they are massively shareable. It wouldn’t surprise me if Netflix detail ‘memes’ in their marketing strategy, as a section of its own! In fact, there is a rumour circulating that says due to the sheer number of Bird Box memes that have appeared, Netflix must be creating them and pushing them onto social media. I laughed when I first read this, but then thought how clever that would actually be as a tactic for them to employ. I can barely hop on my social media feeds at the moment without every few scrolls containing a meme related to a Netflix show, whether its Bandersnatch or Bird Box. I do think these are all organically made from consumers though, considering how many people are watching the shows and how easy memes are to make as longs you have a funny bone in your body!

Another couple of reports have been parading around with the line ‘Netflix don’t have to spend a dime on marketing, because we as consumers are doing it all for them’. While I think this is an extremely important factor to raise, I would also like to call out that the reported international marketing/advertising dollars for Netflix actually increased YOY in 2018 and was somewhere in the $2 billion (US) ball park (crazy right!). However, all this user generated content and general chatter does play a significant role in their marketing efforts under the ‘earned media’ banner, but performs so well because it is a support of the paid marketing efforts. That being said, I personally, would NEVER have watched Bird Box if I hadn’t of felt like I had been missing out due to the sheer amount of social media posts AND the fact that I wanted to understand the jokes! The movie isn’t my cup of tea but I felt obliged to watch it… how powerful is that!

Adding fuel to this social media fire is the fact that Netflix do engage and interact online, particularly on Twitter. The cherry on top is they do this with a sense of humour, a personality and not some robotic, corporate driven voice. Guess what then happens? People share those engagements too! Another huge tick in the ‘earned media’ marketing category.

Applying this to your business and marketing strategies we can see that you have to have a strong brand, you cannot just blend in. Find content and a tone of voice that is different, that is going to hook people in and make them WANT to talk about you, make them feel like they NEED to have what you are offering them. Plus always know that while earned media is great and technically free, at the end of the day to grow your business you do need to put dollars behind your marketing and advertising efforts in some way or another.

I hope this mere scratch of the surface of Netflix’s marketing was beneficial and that you can apply some of these thinkings into your business! Try to think about things differently… marketing inspiration is literally everywhere because realistically marketing is everywhere, even when it doesn’t seem like it (hint: thats probably when it is marketing at its finest… so pay close attention). Take your consumer hat off and start thinking about brands marketing efforts from a business perspective in your day to day life.

Claire McKeen