Take a moment and think of all the competitors Netflix has and I bet I have one that you’ve never thought of before.
Earlier this month Netflix CEO, Reed Hastings, commented that Netflix’s biggest competitor is sleep and the more you think about it, the more it rings true. (1)
Netflix is, for the most part, the catalyst for the explosion of the term “binge-watching.” In a press release, Netflix said they want to take the term to another level by changing it slightly to “binge-racing.” This is defined as watching an entire series of a new show within 24-hours of it being released on Netflix. They even went as far as calling it a “sport.” Before you knock it for sounding ridiculous, you should be aware that 8.4 million people in the US have stated they partake in binge-racing. (2)
The reasons for wanting to binge-race start to become clear when you dive into it. Maybe some people are super fans of a show like Stranger Things and have been waiting months for the new season to come out, or maybe they want to watch everything so quickly to limit the accidental “spoilers” on the internet from less-than-kind people who decide to reveal what happened on the show.
Reed Hastings brought the idea of sleep and binge-racing together when he said, “You get a show or a movie you’re really dying to watch, and you end up staying up late at night, so we actually compete with sleep…and we’re winning!”
It’s genius. Netflix battling sleep is akin to PR battling the mind. Changing people’s mind on something is the main battle that PR professionals go through on a day-to-day basis.
There is an important lesson in PR to be gained from this story: the power of words, their definitions and association by adoption of said definition.
When people think Netflix, they might think binge-watching (which was, by the way, on the shortlist for “word of the year” (3) ) but more importantly, when someone thinks binge-watching they think of the time they binge-watched Black Mirror or Gilmore Girls on Netflix. You see the power in that?
By coining a word or phrase, Netflix is practicing a key component of what makes propaganda successful.
While I vehemently disagree with the unethical practice of propaganda there is a key component of it that makes it successful. If you know this, you can use it for good. And that is altering the definition of words to better suit your message. Let’s look at the word “refugee,” for a moment. Back in 1926, the Refugee Convention defined a refugee as “A person outside the country of his nationality (or not having a nationality) and is unable or unwilling to avail himself of the protection of that country due to a well-founded fear of being persecuted for reasons of race, religion, nationality, membership in a particular social group or political opinion.” (4) Now if you were to look up the word refugee through a modern dictionary, they’ve tacked on “fleeing from a natural disaster” to many of the definitions.
I want you to focus on the change–not so much the content of the change–and see how changing the definitions of words can be used to push a certain opinion.
To swing this back to Netflix and binge-racing, I feel that they are taking this shady practice of propaganda and using it for their own branding. They have created the phrase “binge-racing” and made it synonymous with their brand. While Hulu, HBO and YouTube are all great services, only Netflix honestly holds the opinion in the minds of people as they are the kings and queens of binge-watching and binge-racing. What a great position. When you occupy a certain position in the minds of your consumers – and it is a powerful position – you have won. Now Netflix has to KEEP that position. Binge-racing is a great application of PR by a company that is clearly in first place among its competitors.