Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Netflix presents: How to fail at social media branding

Image via Gizmodo
Meet Jason Castillo. Thanks to Netflix's failure to secure the Twitter name for Netflix's new spinoff mail-order DVD business, he is now the unintentional brand ambassador for Qwikster:

(The profile picture is a recent change. Until yesterday it was an illustration of Sesame Street's Elmos smoking a massive joint, but Castillo got scared that the media attention would lead to a bust.)

Those of us charged with making up odd names for new brands that are both "intuitive" and twisted enough to be "ownable" generally go through a checklist of diligence before even getting trademark lawyers involved. We Google, check all top-level domains, and search all the major social media channels (Facebook and Twitter primarily) to make sure someone hasn't already claimed it. This oversight, for a brand as big as Netflix, is actually pretty astounding.

So astounding, as AdFreak's David Kiefaber quips, it is " so dumb that I'd think it was staged if there were anything for the company to gain from it."

Is it possible? I doubt it. Considering the many gaffes that Netflix has committed recently, it's not stretching credibility to think that they simple dropped the ball. And while this kind of situation is usually dealt with by a quiet negotiation and modest cheque, Castillo is so gloriously stoned that he continues to play his hopes for making "bank" on this as the slow-motion trainwreck only social media can provide.

Meanwhile, Business Insider points out that Twitter's TOS expressly forbid the selling of Twitter names. So by being so publicly greedy, Castillo could blow the whole deal.

And Netflix? Everyone hates the split anyway. It may be time to cut bait and run in a different marketing direction.


  1. Who cares? Much ado about nothing. I, as a consumer, couldn't care less whether they call themselves Qwikster or Prikster. It's a majorly stupid name indeed, but ultimately it's the service that matters. And yes I know their service has been a little sucky lately, but what are the alternatives? Blockbuster? The cheapest rate Blockbuster has is like $15, which includes movies + streaming (not sure) + games. What if I don't want to rent games? Why should I pay for that too? So Qwikster is like eBay. Most people hate it, but everyone's using it because there's no better alternative to use. I've been using Netflix for years. My main issue with them right now is that their selection of movies is really not growing. I've got tons of movies in my queue with unknown availability.

    One final thing. Just because some stoner (?) is using some name as his twitter name does not mean a company cannot trademark it, which Netflix is obviously going to do. They don't have to pay him anything. It's not like he was the owner of qwiskter.com.

  2. He may not be the owner of Qwikster.com, but if Netflix wants that for THEIR new, separate company, they may have to pay. He had it first, so even if they trademark the name, he can still use it for his twitter name.

    By the way, I become a Blockbuster by mail customer right after Netflix announced they were increasing their prices. It's only $9.99 a month and that includes games and Blu-ray. If you have a store like I do, you also get free and unlimited in-store exchanges. Plus, they have a much better selection overall and a lot of the movies that have just come to DVD are available through Blockbuster and not Netflix.

  3. Why, hello there Mr. Blockbuster Corporate Stooge. Would you like to advertise any upcoming specials?

  4. Oh, 2nd anonymous you are so naive. We have some teenager against corporate America. We'll see who wins in the end.

    And last time I checked, Blockbuster did NOT have such affordable rate that included both dvd's and streaming, so stop lying!

    From their site:
    Current By Mail Plans and Prices

    We offer 3 different subscription plans with low monthly prices to meet your entertainment needs and your budget:

    1-out Unlimited - Unlimited Free Exchanges - $11.99 per month
    2-out Unlimited - Unlimited Free Exchanges - $16.99 per month
    3-out Unlimited - Unlimited Free Exchanges - $19.99 per month

    Those prices are soooooooo not competitive. I am on the 1-out plan with Netflix and pay less than 8 bucks (new price). And Blockbuster's dvd selection is even worse.