Netflix's Incredible New Global Branding

Big hat tip to my friend, Brandi Lalanne, for gushing about this on Twitter.

Creative Studio, Gretel, describing their work on solidifying global branding for Netflix:

Netflix is the world’s leading streaming media service, serving over 65 million users in more than 50 countries worldwide and growing. One of the original innovators of streaming content, they’ve grown exponentially in the last five years. With a growing slate of original series, high-profile acquisitions and exploding user base they found they lacked a cohesive brand that could grow with them.

Netflix needed a brand through-line: a conceptual and visual thread to connect everything. Our challenge was to create something broad enough for a global brand but still unique and identifiable. To create something variable yet systematic and bulletproof. It had to be visually striking, adapt to any format, and hold up to interpretation by agencies and vendors around the globe.

It's difficult to grasp the exact words I want to use to describe how much I love everything about their approach. It is a perfect example of a team of creatives that absolutely understand exactly what makes an iconic brand.

Netflix has built an empire of quality original entertainment, and Gretel smartly built upon that foundation of content, rather than focus on a flashy logomark. The big, bold Netflix logo is instantly recognizable, sure, but it doesn't say much about what Netflix is. The value they bring. The thing that is truly central to their brand: programming.

As Brandi described in an email to me:

Netflix doesn’t pussy around and go with some large visuals that showcase their work or making the logo bigger—they go all in with content, (further touting the level of brand recognition they have.)

Exactly. The logo is only abstractly linked to each advert, regardless of size or medium. It peeks out, sometimes with such timidity that you might miss its existence altogether, but with those brief glimpses tied together with a bright red block of color layered under Frank Underwood's penetrating stare, or the wary, weathered face of Piper Chapman, you know exactly where to go to find out more.

And more is exactly what they want you to find. Gretel's inspired reliance on stacking cards one on top of another leads you down a rabbit hole. It's a perfect visual metaphor that plays on how people actually use Netflix in real life.

Again, from their overview, describing The Stack:

Whether it’s in motion or static, the catalog feels infinite, expansive. Always something more to see.

There's always that moment when you finish an episode where the screen shrinks to reveal the following episode, ready and waiting. "I guess I can do one more." Click. You're in. Binge watching. Finish a show, and Netflix is there rolling out recommendations to you based on what you've enjoyed in the past. Always something new to discover. Gretel understand exactly what is enticing about that, and they drive that point home on billboards, in digital, in print. It scales effortlessly.

It's also something that is truly unique to Netflix. I can't think of another company where this approach would feel as cohesive and uniquely tied to that specific brand. From the reliance on the original-content-forward approach, to possessing a logo that can step aside and still remain distinct enough to remain relevant, to pioneering a new culture of consumption that can be represented visually in countless ways. It's uniquely Netflix. You might argue that HBO has the recognition to pull something like this off, but logo and brilliant library aside, they haven't yet solidified themselves as a leader in digital streaming. They're making strides, but Netflix is the one that immediately comes to mind when someone says "binge watch." And forget about trying this with any other company. The broadcast networks don't have the clout, and players like Amazon and Hulu still haven't proven themselves as worthy adversaries in the programming department. None of their shows have even come close to approaching global sensation status.

This all becomes even more remarkable when you consider that Netflix has only been in the original programming business since 2011, and it wasn't until House of Cards premiered in early 2013 that we got to see what they're actually capable of. In less than three to five years (depending on what timeline you're looking at), they've managed to put themselves in a place of superiority over HBO and Showtime (who have been doing this for decades) from a brand perspective. Globally recognized and impossible to imitate.

Gretel tapped right into it. Their work is absolutely brilliant. It is absolutely Netflix.