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There’s Always Money in the Banana Stand – Showcasing Netflix’s Genius in Marketing

May 2, 2013

The return of Arrested Development is rapidly approaching (as I covered here). Netflix is ratcheting up the level of their promotion substantially in the buildup to the premier of the 15 new episodes. With Netflix making the news recently with the success of their first foray into original programming (House of Cards) along with the fact that they are now the largest television subscription service in the US right now, having overtaken HBO (click here for New York Times article), I wanted to compare their strategies for promoting House of Cards and Arrested Development.

I found the choice by Netflix to have these two shows lead their original programming to be a bold one, given how different they are, not only in content but presumably also in audience. House of Cards was a completely new show, with no built-in audience and little to no expectations from audiences before the show was released. Beyond the fact that David Fincher and Kevin Spacey were involved and that it centered on the political environment in DC, I knew nothing prior to watching (and enjoying) the first season of the show.

On the other hand, I, along with legions of others, am a diehard Arrested Development fan and have been waiting its return ever since it was originally cancelled by Fox. Netflix has catered directly to fans like me with their promotional posters, the reveal of the first publicly released scene from the new season (!!) and the scavenger hunt they hosted last weekend in New York City.

In case you missed it, the official Arrested Development Twitter account (@arresteddev) announced last Saturday that all of the promotional posters were visible on sidewalks throughout New York City. Once each poster had been found and tweeted to @arresteddev, the team at Netflix would reveal a new promotional poster seen below:

The bonus poster revealed by Netflix as part of their scavenger hunt in New York City (photo via twitter.com/arresteddev

The bonus poster revealed by Netflix as part of their scavenger hunt in New York City (photo via twitter.com/arresteddev)

This promotion plays perfectly to the crowd of Arrested fans who have been starving for the show to return to pop culture relevance. All of the promotional posters play into obscure references from the original seasons (to be explained poster by poster before the new episodes are released), so by referring to them while promoting the new episodes, Netflix is letting these fans know that the Arrested Development that will be coming back to Netflix will include similar references to earlier episodes. I also love that each of the posters concentrates on an individual character, similar to the rumored structure of the new season (with each episode following an individual character). Additionally, Netflix is organically helping build a community of Arrested Development fans by tweeting out the users who found each poster during the scavenger hunt promotion.

By using obscure references to promote the new episodes and putting existing Arrested fans in the spotlight, Netflix is also sending the message to the fans that they are one of the reasons the show is coming back. While the scavenger hunt may not have “gone viral” or lit up message boards across the Internet as a whole, that does not seem to be Netflix’s intent with this promotion. Instead, they are focusing on the group who already knows they like Arrested Development, making sure they know the show is returning to Netflix on May 26th. Don’t believe me? Check the background on the @arresteddev Twitter page.

In showing versatility with the choice of their first two forays into original content, and the different approaches used in promoting these drastically different shows,  Netflix seems destined to repeat their success from House of Cards with Arrested Development. House of Cards is almost unanimously regarded as a hit. Arrested Development is going to teach Fox a lesson for cancelling it (possibly using George Sr.’s one armed friend), and now that Netflix is the largest subscription based service in the US they are positioned to lead the challenge of the traditional cable distribution method.

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