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Eric Rardin 3 min read

Marketing Tactics Gone Bad - The Netflix Fiasco

Nonprofit communicators, marketers and strategists are frequently urged to be more like their colleagues in the for profit world. In fact, at a recent conference I heard a vice president of digital innovation for one of the world’s largest public relations firms condescendingly tell his nonprofit audience “you’re marketers too, you can do any thing they can do.” I’m sure anyone reading this can come up with 15 flaws in that statement in about five seconds.

But I want to address the core question. Are they really that much better? Definitely not in the case of Netflix. Here’s a quick run down on the Netflix disaster. In August Netflix informed its customers clumsily and without an ounce of remorse that they were splitting their streaming service and DVD via mail service into two distinct services, offering a third hybrid option at a much higher price. That third hybrid option of course was what everyone had been receiving previously. Of course their customers were enraged and they started jumping ship in droves. Facebook and Twitter lit up with brutal comments scorning the decision.

A month later Netflix, in the form of an apology, told it’s customers they had made a terrible mistake and were going to fix it by spinning off the DVD via mail service into a new company - Qwikster. That meant not only would the previous price increase exist, but now people would be forced to create a new account with a new company to continue to receive DVDs in the mail. Some apology. Not surprisingly to anyone but the strategists and marketers at Netflix, this only made matters worse.

On that following Monday, having seen it’s share value tank and thousands of customers lost, Netflix cancelled the Qwikster gambit.

Where to begin? This once highly respected, even loved, company managed to alienate their customer base, then make matters worse with a fake apology, then look foolish when their plan b turned out to be much worse than plan a, which stank.

The strategic decisions were terrible. The delivery of the message was clumsy. Their understanding of their customers was non-existent. And their crisis response simply produced more terrible business decisions and further alienated their customers.

When has any nonprofit performed so terribly and at such cost to their brand?

The next time someone condescendingly tells you to be more like your for profit peers you might tell them “no thanks, I’ll be better.”