Lack of Planning, Bad Naming Skills Hurting Netflix


Parody video via TechCrunch

Let’s start by saying that the uproar over Netflix is gargantuan and crazy. It’s a movie service. You’re at home futzing around on a Sunday afternoon and you say to yourself, “Why don’t I pop Wordplay in the DVD machine and eat some Cheez Doodles?” (I will be a Qwikster customer.)  This is happening in the world. And there are 23, 525 comments on CEO Hastings’ blog post. Let’s maintain perspective, yeah?

But, from a PR point of view, this has turned into tidal wave of nastiness for Netflix largely because even with the CEO’s direct communication, the comms plan wasn’t fully worked out. There actually seems to have been minimal thought put into the comms plan.

While yesterday’s apology does a lot to explain why the company needs to raise prices and separate — to remain competitive in a changing media landscape, two business models for two different kinds of businesses — the company hasn’t yet explained how these changes will benefit customers. So far, people are paying more. And, actually, one complaint is the clumsiness of now having two queues if you subscribe to both streaming and DVD services.

And then, of course, there’s the new name, which is pretty awful. And the fact that the Qwikster Twitter handle is taken, which is another issue that this tragicomic situation doesn’t need.

And the business that this move was meant to enhance is taking a hit in the stock market.

A rebrand or the spin-off of a new brand is something that takes months of planning, not just to execute internally, but to outline and relate to consumers. The information coming from the company springs forth on subscribers with no warning or preparation for a response to grievances.

And for Qwikster customers like myself, there is the issue of perception. As I mentioned on today’s Morning Media Menu, we talked about this yesterday in the Mediabistro offices and there’s a feeling that DVD customers are being treated as second-class citizens, a sentiment echoed by this letter to Netflix posted on EW.com. Besides being under-appreciated, there’s the sense that the DVD side of the company and its customers are a little lame. Well, my DVD machine can hold five discs at once. If that’s not cool, then…

I’m going to go out on a limb and say that Netflix will ultimately be fine. A company or two may try to capitalize on the bad feelings (check out the clip up top), but people will remember why they signed up and all will fall into place. But as the EW letter says, the feeling that Netflix is cool and convenient may be gone, squandered by bad PR.