Brand Stories: Netflix

Netflix has forever changed the media landscape, both in terms of how we consume television and movies and in the kind of content that we expect to see. But before they were one of the giants of Silicon Valley, they were a fledgling startup with a very different brand strategy. So how did they manage to become the powerhouse that they are today?


A Simple, But Competitive Concept

As hard as it may be to believe, Netflix has been around since 1998. Starting out as a service to rent DVDs by mail, Netflix found moderate initial success but feared growing competition from the likes of Apple, Walmart, and Amazon. Founder Reed Hastings sought to sell the company to Blockbuster, one of the biggest names in DVD rentals at the time. Blockbuster, wary of Netflix’s financial losses, declined Hastings’ offer.

Netflix executives recognized that DVDs “were not a hundred year format” and that major innovation would be necessary for survival. Thus, in 2007, Netflix launched streaming and played an instrumental role in making companies like Blockbuster totally obsolete.

 Welcome to the Future

An early issue that the company faced was the business of educating consumers. While they had a huge advantage in the streaming market by pioneering the format, introducing a brand-new concept like that to the public can be very challenging.

In the beginning, streaming was offered as a kind of supplement to customers’ DVD subscription packages. For $5.99/month, users were allowed access to 6 hours of low-grade video streaming (from a catalogue of just 1,000 or so titles). This was positioned as a kind of “in case you just can’t wait” feature, which was a smart tool for getting users into the bingewatching mindset.

Interestingly, some of the most valuable data gleaned from Netflix’s early streaming records was the popularity of the 1990s BBC series House of Cards, as this would eventually inform the company’s decision to remake the series. Netflix’s use of predictive analytics in creative development has contributed enormously to the explosive success of the brand, specifically its original content. This original content is especially valuable to Netflix, because unlike films and tv from other studios, Netflix retains all of the rights to their own work.


Thoughtful Brand Assets

Netflix’s logo evolution has constantly reflected the company’s growth and development. The original logo was a product of its time, looking distinctly “90s” with its gradient cinema reel.

The next variation, introduced in 2000, better reflected the company’s positioning as a DVD provider. The blocky font evokes old movie theatre marquis, grounding the idea of bringing the cinema experience to your mailbox.

2014 saw a modernization of the full logo, going to a flat variation in a time when many big brands were simplifying their fonts. However, the most exciting development happened in 2016, when Netflix started heavily using just an “N” to represent the brand. This marked a new display of confidence for Netflix, that the brand was so well-known that they only really needed one letter.

In 2019, Netflix began running a new logo animation before their original series. The logo breaks apart to reveal individual “strands” in a range of different colors, representing the “spectrum of stories, languages, fans, & creators that make Netflix beautiful.” This is an excellent example of a brand using its creative assets to strengthen its message and better connect with consumers.

Netflix is considered one of the premier case studies in corporate innovation and reinvention. Whatever their next big move is, it will be exciting to see how they continue to bring change and experimentation into their identity.



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