What Can Marketers Learn From Tiger King?

How did Netflix's "Tiger King" use word-of-mouth to create an audience of devoted fans? Here are 3 key marketing lessons learned while binge watching.

If you haven't watched Netflix's newest binge-worthy docu-series, "Tiger King: Murder, Mayhem, and Madness," yet you might want to navigate to one of our blog posts about referral programs or word-of-mouth marketing. Because, warning: spoilers below!

Amidst this crazy coronavirus pandemic, in a time of self-isolation, we can all agree that "Tiger King" has brought us together in a much needed way. And whether you believe Carole Baskin murdered her husband and fed his remains to a tiger or not (but, come on, of course, she did), you've most likely talked, tweeted, texted, or made or a meme about the out-of-this world cast and the bizarre storyline we can't seem to get enough of.

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And less than a month after it's release, it's continuing to quickly become a pop-culture obsession. In her review of “Tiger King,” Variety critic Caroline Framke called the seven-episode limited series “messy yet compelling.” Slate called it "genuinely compulsive viewing."

The show's sharp hockey stick curve in popularity is no shock, considering the majority of us are stuck inside searching for the proverbial silver lining of self-isolation. Well, we may just have found it in the form of "Tiger King."

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What exactly made this Netflix documentary one of the most watched and talked about sensations of 2020? Aside from Joe Exotic and his band of characters, the show went viral based on its platform, timing, and obviously content.

What can marketers learn from "Tiger King?"

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In true word-of-mouth fashion, "Tiger King" provides marketers with important lessons about crafting a campaign that is easy to find and hard to stop following. What can we learn in order to bring the same viral components to our products and services?

Here are three key takeaways from the show's newfound popularity to help you develop a killer word-of-mouth marketing strategy of your own: 

1.) Prioritize the user experience with the right platform for success

Imagine if you had to wait a week to watch the next installment of Joe Exotic and his roadside Oklahoma zoo. Would the show have grabbed your attention the way that it did when the next episode simply started auto-playing? 

That's the beauty of combining an obsessive true crime series with a streaming platform. Especially a brand like Netflix that is synonymous with delivering binge-worthy content to a vast audience of engaged users.

Netflix users are known to create a stream of word-of-mouth across various channels, while tuning in on multiple devices, and sharing their emotions in real-time. A quick look at social media engagement gives a detailed glimpse at who is watching and engaging with "Tiger King." 

The key takeaway for marketers: Focus on delivering content that allows audiences to interact with the same information in multiple ways. Increasing brand awareness by offering content via email nurture campaigns, social media channels, and referral programs helps your audience develop a clear brand preference along the way.

2.) Don't be afraid to dig into data to understand your audience

Although Netflix is hesitant to share their viewership data, the streaming service leverages customer relationships and incorporates user data to decide which new shows should be added to the lineup, resulting in highly-addictive original programming like "Love is Blind" and "Cheer." It’s no coincidence that "Tiger King" is growing into such a viral success.

In fact, Rotten Tomatoes rates "Tiger King" as the most popular TV series right now, with a 98% critic score and 93% audience score. 

More so, "Tiger King" further proves that timing really is everything. The show released just as viewers all over the globe were told to stay inside. With an increasing number of people turning to Netflix, the platform's ability to provide personalized recommendations for its users as well as show what's trending is a perfect example of the power of real-time analytics persuading consumer behavior.

The key takeaway for marketers: Just like Netflix continually re-trains and optimizes their algorithms based on user behavior and preference to improve the accuracy of their prediction of what you’re most likely to watch, your brand should leverage marketing data to produce fresh and relevant content delivered at the right time. For example, if your referral program shares typically spike with new product launches, try implementing an email workflow to reinvigorate brand ambassadors prior to the release. Or if you have a segmentation of influencers that produce high conversion rates on specific social media platforms, tie that data into your next promotional campaign.

3.) Develop campaigns that are focused on engagement

The Netflix debut of "Tiger King" during a global pandemic set the stage for a highly interactive and social media-driven dialogue. When viewer reactions can be captured in real-time and shared by real people on highly publicized networks, the conversation is amplified.

And in today's social world, engagement comes in a variety of expected and unexpected channels. While the producers of "Tiger King" probably knew many tweets and mentions would arise after the docu-series premiered, they probably didn't anticipate the vast amount of memes, celebrity casting photos, and TikToks that are now being circulated everywhere from group chats to outbound sales emails. 

The key takeaway for marketers: "Tiger King" viewers aren’t just passively watching, they’re making an event out of the content. The series is organically reaching more potential viewers than many paid Netflix marketing strategies could have brought in. This is a lesson for us marketers to diversify our paid and organic marketing channels. For example, traditional print ads focus on attracting buyers, but don't go beyond that. Progressive marketing programs, like successful refer-a-friend campaigns, activate customers organically to engage with your brand and share it with their networks. This drives loyalty and revenue, a win-win!

Marketing lessons learned while being quarantined with "Tiger King"

the customers just obsessed with me After forcing my husband to sit through a Netflix marathon under the guise of "work", I'm happy to report there are a few key takeaways all of us marketers can learn from "Tiger King" and start applying today.

By delivering a great user experience, optimizing programs based on marketing metrics, and creating engaging content, brands can build relationships with their audience while activating an army of brand ambassadors to share their story.

And whether this blog post convinced you to watch your first "Tiger King" episode or you're left wondering how you buzzed through the entire docu-series so quickly, consider how you initially discovered it.

Did you follow a trending hashtag? Did a friend ask for your thoughts on who would play Joe Exotic in the biopic (David Spade, right?) or maybe the show popped up in your Netflix carousel of recommendations? Whatever led you to discover the bizarre world of Joe Exotic, Doc Antle, and Carole Baskin, it originated from the age-old chain of word-of-mouth. 

So go ahead, tell someone else about this Netflix binge-worthy gold mine, we need more people to discuss with.

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