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Event Marketing
31 March 2020 

12 Imaginative Events and Activations from Netflix

Jacob Thomas
12 Imaginative Events and Activations from Netflix

Learn how to host a must-attend event like industry titan, Netflix.

Few companies have revolutionized the entertainment industry the way Netflix has. What started in 1997 as a convenient video rental alternative quickly turned into a powerhouse company that (as of this writing) has a larger market cap than Disney. It has also inspired widely used terms such as “Netflix and Chill.”

Netflix is the gold standard in video-streaming and its ambitious content strategy should help it keep its position at the top of the field for years to come.

Part of the Netflix content strategy includes numerous live, in-person event types and marketing activations. In this article, we’ll take a look at 12 of them and pull out key takeaways you can use to improve your own conferences, training seminars, and trade expos.

1. Netflix is a Joke Fest

Netflix is a Joke Fest - Netflix Event MarketingSource: Los Angeles Times

Netflix is a Joke Fest is the first-ever live comedy festival hosted by Netflix. Unfortunately, the event has been postponed due to the novel coronavirus. But when it does actually happen, it’s going to be a riot. How could it not be? Comedy heavyweights such as Jerry Seinfeld, Chris Rock, Dave Chappelle, David Letterman, Chelsea Handler, and many more are set to perform. All in all, the festival will host 100 of your favorite comedians in 20 top L.A. venues for hilarious stand-up routines, live podcast episodes, and exclusive screenings.

Key Takeaway: The speakers (i.e. performers) at Netflix is a Joke Fest are absolutely incredible. You need to secure Grade-A speakers for your conference as well. If you do, you’ll have a much easier time building interest and selling tickets. But don’t worry if you don’t have the budget to book world-famous entertainers. The speakers you choose just need to be known to your unique target audience and fill them with excitement.

2. The Bird Box Experience

Source: YouTube

Bird Box, a Netflix movie starring academy award-winning actress Sandra Bullock, was released in 2018. To help build anticipation for the film, Netflix partnered with MC2 Experiential Studio to create a one-of-a-kind experiential marketing campaign. A double-decker bus was wrapped in Bird Box promotional material and let loose in cities like Los Angeles, CA and Austin, TX. Then participants were blindfolded and invited onto the vehicle where they were shown a series of “jump scares” that reflected the thrills seen in the movie.

Key Takeaway: Every event your company hosts should feel like an experience, not just a collection of speeches and workshops. Do whatever you can to immerse your attendees into your company’s world. How? Book an amazing venue, engage all attendee senses (not just sight and sound), keep them guessing with surprise content, and allow event-goers to customize their event experiences in some way.

3. Personalization, Recommendation and Search (PRS)

Personalization, Recommendation and Search (PRS) - Netflix Event MarketingSource: Netflix

Netflix’s PRS event in 2019 brought together practitioners and researchers in the fields of personalization, recommendation, and search to help share new findings and best practices. Leaders from other top companies such as Google, Airbnb, Spotify, and Facebook spoke. It was the fourth year that Netflix hosted the hugely successful gathering.

Key Takeaway: Let’s be honest, topics like “recommendation” aren’t super exciting to most people. But Netflix understands its audience and knows that the people it created this event for are hungry for more information in this arena. Be like Netfix and bravely tackle niche topics with your events. If your specific audience wants it, give it to them – even if the general population isn’t as keen on it!

4. Netflix: Luke’s Diners

Source: Twitter

Are you a fan of Gilmore Girls? A LOT of people are. Knowing this, Netflix planned a creative event marketing activation to celebrate and promote the release of the Gilmore Girls reunion season. The activation saw Netflix convert 200 independent coffee shops across the U.S. into Luke’s Diners (a popular location in the show). Fans were able to see decor from the set, drink free coffee, and even win free Netflix subscriptions.

Key Takeaway: If one event is good, wouldn’t multiple events be better? Consider turning your stand-alone gathering into an event series and taking your conference to different cities around the world. You’ll be able to extend your event’s reach and connect with more attendees this way, even if you only book one additional location.

5. Mayor Kline’s Fun Fair

Mayor Kline's Fun Fair - Netflix Event MarketingSource: Facebook

Stranger Things is one of Netflix’s most popular shows. If you’re not familiar with it, the story takes place in the 1980s and follows a group of young kids as they investigate supernatural happenings in the town of Hawkins, IN. To help promote the show’s third season, which was released in 2019, Netflix hosted the Mayor Kline’s Fun Fair at the Santa Monica Pier in Southern California. Attendees were able to listen to 80s music, watch magic performances, play carnival games, and otherwise immerse themselves in the world of Stranger Things.

Key Takeaway: Mayor Kline’s Fun Fair allowed attendees to experience, first hand, the wonder of Stranger Things for free. Have you considered hosting a free event? Maybe you should. It will allow you to reach more people with your event content and build goodwill with your target audience. If you secure sponsorships and sell products at your event, you can still achieve an amazing financial event ROI!

6. The Highwayman House at SXSW

The Highwayman House at SXSW - Netflix Event MarketingSource: Shuffle Online

In 2019, Netflix released The Highwayman, a film starring Kevin Costner. To promote it, the streaming giant hosted a themed experience at South by Southwest in Austin, TX. Once attendees entered Banger’s Sausage House and Beer Garten, which had been converted into an old-fashioned speakeasy, they were transported back to 1934. Guests were given the opportunity to gamble, order drinks, listen to bands, and embark on a movie-related scavenger hunt. So cool!

Key Takeaway: The Highwayman House was an excellent example of event branding. But we want to focus on another aspect of this experience: it was a ton of fun! In the rush to book great speakers, schedule hands-on workshops, and implement a full event strategy, it can be easy to forget that events should be enjoyable. If they’re not, people won’t attend. So remember to up the fun factor at each of your conferences and training seminars. You can do this by planning engaging activities for your attendees, booking world-class musicians to entertain them, giving away free prizes… the list goes on!

7. Netflix Fourth Quarter Review

Netflix Fourth Quarter Review - Netflix Event MarketingSource: TechCrunch

Almost every corporate event management strategy includes investor meetings and/or calls. If it doesn’t, company shareholders won’t be able to learn what’s happening within the company they’ve invested in. Netflix hosts quarterly review events for its shareholders to keep them updated on organizational happenings.

Key Takeaway: It doesn’t get said enough: take care of your team and they’ll take care of you. If you’re looking for corporate event ideas, consider hosting an employee appreciation dinner or retreat — anything to let your team know that you value their efforts. Your employees will definitely appreciate the recognition, we guarantee it.

8. Enter the Continent: The Witcher Fan Experience

Source: Twitter

The Witcher is an epic fantasy series based on a collection of books and video games. If you haven’t seen it, think of it as Netflix’s answer to HBO’s Game of Thrones. To build excitement for the show, Netflix hosted Enter the Continent: The Witcher Fan Experience. This one night only event allowed attendees to see the series before it was officially released. They were also able to partake in interactive photo opportunities, watch live performances, and win prizes.

Key Takeaway: Whether your company participates in B2C or B2B event marketing, try giving your attendees a sneak peek of your company’s new products during your event. People LOVE early access because it makes them feel special. Reward your audience for attending your event with a bit of insider knowledge that no one else has.

9. Because You Watched: A Netflix Exhibit

Because You Watched: A Netflix Exhibit - Netflix Event MarketingSource: Average Socialite

Because You Watched: A Netflix Exhibit was one part customer appreciation event and one part marketing ploy. Attendees were invited to Raleigh Studios to “journey through the worlds of Netflix originals like Stranger Things, The Crown, Black Mirror, Ozark, and dozens more.” There were costumes, props, surprises, and plenty of photo ops. While attendees were able to experience their favorite shows in person, they were also shown new shows that might be of interest to them, thus allowing Netflix to promote more of its content.

Key Takeaway: We just talked about giving your attendees a sneak peek at your company’s new products. Here’s another great idea: take them behind the scenes to see how your company does what it does. Behind the scenes content is very popular. Use it to supercharge your events and you’ll help create one-of-a-kind experiences for your audience.

10. RecSys 2020

Source: Twitter

2020 will mark the 14th annual RecSys conference, which will take place in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil from September 22 to 26. It’s “the premier international forum for the presentation of new research results, systems and techniques in the broad field of recommender systems.” Netflix does NOT host this event, but they are its largest sponsor.

Key Takeaway: Event sponsorship is a wonderful opportunity for your company to connect with its target market without having to actually host additional conferences. Find a company that serves a similar audience to you and then ask to sponsor one of their seminars or trade expos. If you do, you might be able to have your company’s logo featured on the event website, a booth on the showroom floor, the opportunity to lead a workshop… The actual details will vary depending on which event you sponsor. It’s definitely worth investigating!

11. Women in Data Science

Women in Data Science - Netflix Event MarketingSource: Medium

Women in Data Science is another event that is NOT hosted by Netflix. But the streaming company has participated in it in the past. If you’ve never heard of Women in Data Science (WIDS for short) before it’s a one-day technical conference that aims to “inspire and educate data scientists worldwide, regardless of gender, and to support women in the field.”

Key Takeaway: Don’t just sponsor other events like we mentioned above, participate in them. Two Netflix employees spoke at the 2019 Women in Data Science by hosting a breakout session titled “A Glimpse Into the day of a Data Scientist.” Event participation gets you many of the perks of event sponsorship. But it also allows you to interact with your target audience in a very personable way that many company’s find beneficial.

12. Netflix Co-Watching Parties

Netflix Co-Watching Parties - Netflix Event MarketingSource: Google Chrome

The novel coronavirus has made social interaction between friends and family difficult due to self-quarantining. Fortunately, apps like Netflix Party exist and can help bring people together — even if they can’t be in the same room. Netflix Party is a Google Chrome extension that, once downloaded, allows Netflix customers to set up virtual parties and watch Netflix content together from different locations around the world. The app even features a chat box so that you can discuss your favorite scenes with your friends in real-time.

Key Takeaway: While Netflix doesn’t own the Netflix Party app, it does provide the content these parties use to entertain “guests.” Co-watching parties remind us of the importance of human connection at live events. Make sure your next conference, training seminar, or trade expo has numerous opportunities for attendees to mingle and network along with all the other content and festivities you have planned. You may even want to add your own chat feature to virtual events so attendees who are watching from home can interact in real-time!

Main Takeaways: How to Host an Event Like Netflix

Netflix always produces great content — both for its video streaming customers and attendees at its events and marketing activations. We gave you 12 powerful event ideas in this article. But if we were to boil all of this knowledge down into three main takeaways, they would be:

  1. Know Your Audience: It’s nearly impossible to host a stellar event or marketing activation if you don’t know your audience. When you understand their likes and dislikes, you can book speakers, plan content, and design experiences that will excite them and keep them coming back for more, year after year.
  2. Create Experiences: The best events and marketing activations are more than a collection of speeches, workshops, and happenings. They’re experiences that attendees remember for years after they conclude. Go the extra mile and create memorable experiences for your attendees.
  3. Expand Your Strategy: If your event strategy only includes events hosted by your company, it’s time to expand. Take a serious look at event sponsorship, book company executives to speak at outside events that serve your target market, and always look for new opportunities to connect with and engage your audience.

To help you host a Netflix-level event, invest in event software. This tool will allow you to reduce stress, optimize opportunities, and ensure even the smallest of event details are handled correctly.

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