Benita Chacko
OTT Streaming

The Netflix India marketing playbook from the horse’s mouth

In an exclusive interview, Srivats TS, vice president, marketing, shares the streaming platform’s strategy to promote its content.

Netflix India created an aerial spectacle with a fleet of 1,000 drones above Mumbai’s Mahalaxmi Race Course to announce the release date of Sanjay Leela Bhansali’s Heeramandi: The Diamond Bazaar. Before that, it launched the series’ first song, 'Sakal Ban' at the Miss World 2024 finale, where the leading ladies of the show and Miss World contestants dressed in period attire. It also collaborated with fashion e-tailer Ajio to launch an exclusive limited-edition ethnic collection inspired by the show. 

All this was created with a single aim - to penetrate the consumer's mind by making Netflix content part of pop culture and everyday conversation. 

While these are initiatives created to promote just one show, Netflix India puts in similar efforts to promote almost all its shows. In an interview with afaqs!, Srivats TS, vice president, marketing, Netflix India, says that for the streaming platform, marketing, in one sentence, is about fueling conversations and fandom around its titles, talent, and brand. 

“This is how pop culture works. Word-of-mouth is the most powerful form of marketing. Leveraging our large organic social community of 44 million fans, we provide a platform for consumers to engage, share, and discuss our content with their friends and family, making our marketing strategy centred on fostering dialogue and connection,” he says.

Ultimately, the goal is to get the audience to subscribe. "The broad business goal is to make audiences feel they must watch a Netflix show. Over the past few years, this has been the clear path for our India business," Srivats says.

While its marketing strategy focuses on the fundamentals: identifying the audience, understanding their insights, positioning the title effectively, and bringing it to life creatively, uniquely for this category pre-launch, its strategy revolves around eventisation and building anticipation. Post-launch, it shifts to reacting to audience feedback, sustaining interest, fuelling fandom, and driving conversation based on organic traction and sentiment.

For this, it prefers a 360-degree approach, where consumers experience marketing across multiple media. “Reach and frequency are fundamental, so if the audience sees it on digital platforms, hears about it from friends and family, sees it on outdoor ads during their commute, and catches it on TV during events like the IPL, that's optimal,” he says.

This is how pop culture works. Word-of-mouth is the most powerful form of marketing.

However, it depends on the title and the target audience. Not every title will use all media. Some titles might have a digital-forward campaign if the talent or content is more suited to digital platforms, while others may lean more toward traditional media. For example, its campaigns for Heeramandi and The Great Indian Kapil Show are comprehensive, leveraging digital, social, and traditional media. Heeramandi has ads on IPL, while Kapil's campaign heavily features linear TV due to its audience. 

“It's not a one-size-fits-all strategy; it's about identifying the audience for each title and reaching them in the most efficient and effective way,” he adds.

Netflix OOH innovations
Netflix OOH innovations

Influencer marketing forms a key aspect of Netflix’s India strategy. Influencers like Tanmay Bhatt, Samay Raina and Prashasti Singh are seen promoting the content in several videos on YouTube. Srivats says the influencers are chosen based on the title’s essence and its target audience. It then aligns this with the influencer's fan community to ensure synergy. For instance, for a female-oriented title, it would collaborate with influencers with a predominantly female following. 

Ajio unveils a collection inspired by SLB’s series 'Heeramandi: The Diamond Bazaar'
Ajio unveils a collection inspired by SLB’s series 'Heeramandi: The Diamond Bazaar'

Its influencer strategy is also designed to help it reach an audience beyond its current demographic by being more local, relatable and accessible, to eventually convert them. Shows like The Great Indian Kapil Show, Heeramandi, and the film Amar Singh Chamkila also contribute to this same endeavour. Srivats says the brand is consciously looking to become more local, relatable and accessible. 

“Over the last two and a half years, we managed to retain the global aspiration credentials, while moving towards feeling more local, relatable and accessible. While Netflix has been perceived as an aspirational global brand, we've strived to blend global appeal with local relevance. This balance of global credentials and local relatability also guides our influencer selection for campaigns,” he says.

This effort to localise content is also a part of the platform's endeavours to penetrate further into the country to reach audiences beyond the metro cities.

Over the last two and a half years, we managed to retain the global aspiration credentials, while moving towards feeling more local, relatable and accessible.

"While Netflix India's audience enjoys our global content, local content like Heeramandi has a unique appeal. One of our biggest titles, it has penetrated pop culture and become a cultural phenomenon due to its Indian roots with local nuances and cultural context. While global titles like Squid Game and Stranger Things have strong followings, the blend of global and local content is what makes Netflix unique, resonating deeply with Indian audiences,” he says.

Promos for its upcoming shows can also be seen on its rival OTT platforms like JioCinema and SonyLIV. Srivats says it's less about competitors and more about reaching audiences where they are, be it digital, TV, or other platforms, considering the affinity they have for where they watch content, sports, etc.

“It's about being present where consumers are. For instance, during the IPL season, IPL is a major media vehicle with lots of viewers. Our goal is to reach consumers through such popular media,” he explains.

Netflix has been consistently promoting its content through innovative promotional campaigns. For its show Killer Soup it created a social media influencer ‘SoupSalu’, an Instagram personality on a mission to find the ultimate killer soup. It created an AR wall mural to promote the movie Kho Gaye Hum Kahan. It created buzz for The Archies through a reel showing a plane flying over Gateway of India with an attached flyer reading, “Follow @archiesoninstagram”. The ad was created using VFX (visual effects). For some campaigns it has leaned into pop culture trends, for some it is media innovations and for others, it is format innovations. 

“Innovation is in our DNA at Netflix, especially in marketing. Sometimes the title itself lends itself to a certain type of innovation from a creative perspective,” he says.

The streaming platform has been effectively using outdoor advertising to build curiosity and anticipation around its content. It put up a 100-day countdown on a hoarding in Mumbai for The Archies. It created a mural of Alia Bhatt as Gangubai Kathiawadi in Bandra, Mumbai to promote the film’s release on its platform. Though these installations may be limited to a geographical location, they end up becoming viral content on social media, thus widening its reach. 

Srivats says Netflix’s secret sauce for creating viral content is its ability to blend traditional fundamentals with the evolving trends of today's consumers. For instance, when it launched The Great Indian Kapil Show on Netflix, its consumer insights revealed that the reunion of Kapil and Sunil Grover was the most talked-about topic. It leveraged this by creating an asset featuring their reunion, which garnered over 20 million views. 

“Key fundamentals like understanding the audience, deriving insights, and ensuring creative and compelling messaging remains. However, success hinges on deep audience insights, such as digital conversations and consumer feedback on the shows and brand. It is important to stay close to consumer trends and pop culture to generate impactful, viral campaigns,” he shares.

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