Netflix Email: Great? Terrible? Who Cares?

Netflix Blog PostThe internet is abuzz today with news of the the Netflix email, blog post, and general announcement about Qwikster. In case you missed it, check out the blog post from Reed Hastings, Co-Founder and CEO, Netflix.

If social networks are any indication, this is the top story of the day. As I write this, that blog post has nearly 4,000 tweets, 14,000 Facebook likes, and close to 13,000 comments*. A quick glace will tell you that many in the Netflix community are not happy with the price increases, the tone of the blog post, the “explanation and reflections” from Mr. Hastings, and the rebranding of Netflix to Qwikster choice. Speaking of the name Qwikster, it would appear that the Twitter handle has already been claimed by someone else, Jason Castillo (note the avatar).

*These social sharing numbers are likely all gross underestimates too as many folks do not use the on-blog 3rd party sharing services.

However, I’m not here to judge the decision by the Netflix Team. I’m not here to comment on how it has (or will) impact their stock price. I’m not even here to talk about Elmo smoking.

Nope.

I want to discuss and dissect how Netflix chose to communicate these changes via email.

As it turns out, I no longer am on the Netflix email marketing list. My hunch is that they unsubscribed me once I canceled our service over 2 years ago. Makes sense, actually. Then again, it may have been an opportunity to try and reconnect with me, an opportunity to share this (exciting?) news. But I digress.

A colleague sent me a copy of the email from Mr. Hastings. The email is an exact replica of the Netflix blog post with a bit of first name personalization at the top and a link to the blog post at the bottom tossed in. See the image above left to get an idea of what the email looked like.

Netflix Email: Great? Terrible? Who Cares?

So, was this email from Netflix great? Was it terrible? Or are you in the “who cares?” camp? Personally, I think it was on the not-so-great side.

Listen, I understand the intention of the email. I get that the CEO (I think) was trying the “I’ll apologize and maybe our community will empathize” angle. The language of the email was fairly apologetic. Phrases like, “I messed up” and “I offer my sincere apology” are a big part of this email. However it also has a section explaining the reasoning behind some of the changes.

From a pure design standpoint, I didn’t love this email. It was on the long(ish) side. It was all text – with the exception of the link at the end directly subscribers to the blog post. That blog post read nearly word for word what the email said. They did, however, include a link to this YouTube video. Again, whether or not you agree with the email – the tone, the message, etc – I wonder why they didn’t include a link and/or an clickable image that pointed to this video. It would have broken up the email nicely. It would have given a reason to click, a reason to share. For more visual “learners” it would have been an alternate way to consume the content.

As I often ask clients, what is the goal of your overall email campaign? How do you hope your subscribers will respond to your email communications? Do you want them to simply read it? Read and share? Click-through to a website/blog post? Buy something? Register for an event? Maybe the Netflix Team had thought through these questions. Maybe they did have a goal. It just wasn’t clear from this email what action they wanted me to take.

Equally important to the “what is your goal” question is “Are you ready for the response?” My bet is the the Netflix Team did not anticipate this uproar. Maybe they did.¬†Maybe. I wonder how many replies there were to this email. I wonder if it would have made a difference if they created a “share your thoughts” link that pointed to landing page where subscribers could voice their reaction. Just a thought.

Finally, I’m not here to pile on to the heat Netflix is taking today, this week, and into the future. I’m merely trying to take a different look at their communication – from the email marketing side.

What do you think? Great email? Terrible email? Who cares? Please share your thoughts in the comments below!

Cheers,
DJ Waldow

10 comments
timbrechlin
timbrechlin

My biggest problem is that the email was framed as an apology for the price increase / streaming-DVD split, and yet it fixed nothing that they were apologizing for. It embraced what they did before and is making it even more confusing for the already confused, and probably upset, customer base.

tawatson
tawatson like.author.displayName 1 Like

Agree its a dense, long, dull email and it does have a certain lack of 'so what's this all about'. Is it possible the action that the CEO wants is no action? That is no more people cancelling subscriptions, feeling upset or sharing their feelings about Netflix with others? In which case there should be a stronger statement of why people should give Netflix a second chance, what they are going to do that continues to provide or improve value.

djwaldow
djwaldow moderator

"there should be a stronger statement of why people should give Netflix a second chance, what they are going to do that continues to provide or improve value."

EXACTLY.

Thanks for your comment.

troynalls
troynalls like.author.displayName 1 Like

I think people tend to forget that just a few years ago they were getting in their car, driving to Blockbuster. spending $3.99 per movie and at least that much in late fees. Oh yeah, the movie had to be returned to the same store.....#shortmemories

molliewrites
molliewrites

When I first saw this in my inbox, my first reaction was, "Finally." I felt like Netflix customers were overdue for some communication about the changes and how they had happened. After reading, I'm still not clear on the WHY. Why was the DVD service re-branded? Why is it beneficial to customers to have two completely separate products? To me, it wasn't enough to say sorry and tell me what was coming next. I needed to understand how this change was going to benefit me. I guess I'll have to keep waiting...

Mollie

djwaldow
djwaldow moderator

@molliewrites Good call, Molly. I didn't really address the actual message within the email. Kinda goes to my point of "what was the goal?" Thanks for your comment!

eDialogLiz
eDialogLiz

Hi DJ, one thing to note is the From Address was "Reed Hastings, Co-Founder and CEO of Netflix" . In my Gmail preview pane, I just saw Reed Hastings, Co-Founde.

I almost didn't open it, especially with that vague subject line. I bet a lot of people put it in the junk folder or just deleted it.

Liz

djwaldow
djwaldow moderator

@eDialogLiz Yeah. I'm a big stickler for From Name stuff. Good catch. I've always wondered, why not just Netflix? Maybe they did an A|B test on the from name & that won? Maybe.