On Tuesday, CNBC reported that AT&T’s new HBO chief Bob Greenblatt threw a little shade at rival Netflix.
Or, was he just stating the obvious?
“Netflix doesn’t have a brand. It’s just a place you go to get anything — it’s like Encyclopedia Britannica,” Greenblatt said. “That’s a great business model when you’re trying to reach as many people on the planet as you can.”
More than anything, Greenblatt is making a point about brand identity.
Namely, it’s the idea that when you offer everything, you’re known for nothing.
Brand Identity Basics
What is brand identity? It’s basically how a product, company or organization presents itself.
What do people think of when your product or business is mentioned? Quality, fair price, good customer service? That’s your brand identity.
So, what does Greenblatt’s statement mean for your business?
When entering a crowded marketplace—let’s say you’re opening a family therapy clinic in a community that has several—it might be a good idea to set yourself apart from the competition.
How? Start with some soul-searching. For example, does your clinic handle learning disabilities particularly well? Trauma? ADHD? Is it based on some specific type of therapy?
By narrowing your field of focus, you help separate yourself from the competition. You might think that this type of narrowing would lead to missed opportunities, but it’s just as easy to argue that becoming known for “something” rather than “everything” helps build your brand.
Netflix: Too Much of a Good Thing?
HBO is known for a particular kind of content. When HBO creates a streaming series, you know it’s going to be well-produced, smart and most likely push the boundaries of risqué content (like nudity, violence, mature themes).
HBO has sort of always been known for this.
Netflix is known for… well, everything. High-quality, low-budget, family, drama, romance, classic TV, cooking—even streaming videos of fireplaces and fish tanks.
And Greenblatt’s point is that Netflix is casting a huge net. Maybe too huge.
The good part: Customers of all ages, genders, etc. can usually find something to watch on Netflix.
The bad part: By offering “everything,” Netflix becomes known for nothing.
Customers have tons of muck to wade through on Netflix (there’s a common joke that one often spends more time looking for something to watch on Netflix than actually watching that thing they found). However, when someone is in the mood for an HBO-style show, they know exactly where to find it. Quickly.
Does It Matter?
Though HBO’s content offerings—by volume—pale in comparison to Netflix, they are winning the brand identity race. That said, is it possible to have your brand identity be basically that you are known for everything? Wal-Mart, for example, is known for “everyday low prices,” yet it’s also known for being a place where you can get everything—from beard trimmers to apples to smartphones—and Wal-Mart is doing okay.
The longer Netflix stays in business and continues to serve as a warehouse of wide-ranging streaming content, its brand identity might actually be that broad, shaggy, non-specific everything HBO rejects.