Once there was a conventional way to market new TV shows - the usual suspects perhaps: TV commercials and billboards. We have all seen a massive billboard for each new Disney movie, a trailer of a new ABC TV show on the channel itself, or a trailer on Hulu.
Everyday, during presidential election season, news channels are crammed with stories both good and bad about each presidential candidates. These political contents are sought after by all the contestants. Each advertisement is priced accordingly. News, quotes, real time events, campaign trails and scandals filled each channel, jam packing it with very noisy content. It's hard for any advertisement to cut through the noise. Especially last year 2016, Trump tweets essentially dominated social channels and even news outlets.
Until one day, Netflix launched an ad campaign during the CNN GOP presidential debate for its original TV series - House of Cards. This was an unusual marketing campaign. It was not a Coca Cola ad or an Oreo ad but a highly political ad in the fictional world of House of Cards. The infamous Frank Underwood is running for president. Netflix used a prime time political debate ad insert to market the newest season of House of Cards.
It was a clever to target audience interested in politics, likely a perfect match for Netflix's target persona. HoC audience may tend to enjoy drama, thriller, and other movie genres, and also yes, real life politics, both democrats and republicans. Given that this is a GOP debate, may be Netflix's subscribers are likely to be a Republican voter and a CNN customer. We can assume strong affinity here between the two brands.
Because of that HoC stole the show at prime time. This trailer got 5000 retweets minutes after the commercial aired (CNN), on Twitter, a platform dominated by Donald Trump's somewhat disparaged tweets. It's unthinkable that a commercial could capture the nature during such a heated, noisy campaign season where both parties pay millions for air time. The impact of the ad was strong, the rippling effect was even stronger.
It seems that Netflix's marketing object is to announce the premier date of a sequel - Season 4 of House of Cards. What's the new season like?
HoC effectively hinted at the dark and thrilling tone of the new season using iconic images of the US political history as its posters. Below is a striking visual comparison between Frank Underwood and Abraham Lincoln. The tone is dark, the presidential candidate's hands bloodied - a sign for a violent political thriller compared to previous seasons which were mere political dramas. A picture is worth a thousand words. Things are about to get darker. Again, Netflix marketing campaign draws comparison in the real world politics.
|FU2016 Frank Underwood campaign and Lincoln Memorial Parallel|
What else do we know about Season 4?
HoC adopted a new marketing tactics and used it across all marketing channels both main stream, social and even in email newsletters. In this mocking White House press release, the presidential candidates and couple asked fellow Americans for their loyalty, a word frequently used by Donald Trump when he ousted FBI director James Comey. His frequent tweets about loyalty have started heated conversations among democrats and republicans. Again, Netflix rode the political tide with ease.
|The political themed newsletter of House of Cards asks for|
loyal from fellow Americans much like President Trump would ask for
loyalty even when the integrity of the government is in question.
Clicking through the newsletter, you will see a terrifying visual in Netflix: Francis and Claire Underwood with gold painted crowns dripping paint that symbolizes blood.
Because of that, HoC has successfully delivered a clear final message: in the era of Trump, the Underwoods want to be emperors and that House of Cards is no longer a political drama but a bloody political thriller. Because of that, HoC successfully capitalized on prime political TV and delivered its new trailer.
Until then, few marketers have successfully competed with mainstream prime time TV. Not only that prime air time is expensive, it si also plain hard to steal the show from topics that everyone cares about. Netflix was able to even build build a viral factor - the campaign was shared for many more times on social. The discussion extends to today. Our blog post is a perfect example that the conversation of #FU2016 continues. Yes the campaign even had a hashtag and a full fledged campaign website. It was safe to say because the campaign lived beyond the ad itself, its ROI increased beyond the initial audience that watched the ad. For example, the newsletter was sent to existing subscribers who may have missed the GOP debate.
Ever since then, House of Cards adopted and continued this political campaign rhetoric in its communications with existing and future subscribers, creating a consistent and effect marketing message. It continues to use campaign posters, hashtag, messaging contents that is consistent with #FU2016 efforts. Frank Underwood continues to address subscribers as if he's actually their president elect. In a time, the good and bad of Donald Trump donates every front page of digital and printed media, this design and marketing format makes so much sense as it cuts through the noise and stays relevant no matter who the president is and what's happening in his cabinet. Frank Underwood approve a new message targeting the incumbent in the real world.