If you haven't yet seen Netflix's adaptation of the book Bird Box, starring Sandra Bullock and being the ocular version of The Quiet Place, then you should really make it your New Year's Resolution. While the film was enjoyable, and Netflix, usually very secretive, revealed that 45,037,125 accounts had watched the film in its first week, was it made all the better due to the memes that were made afterwards? Or were the memes in fact made beforehand, by Netflix, to seed into Twitter and drum up natural-feeling buzz for their ambitious project?
Twitter has been awash with Bird Box memes, re-purposed old content that seems to fit the film. Inundated almost. And thanks to some savvy sleuths, some of this content appears to be the only content some small accounts have made. They literally made Twitter accounts for their pithy hot-takes on how Bird Box is similar to that scene of Tiffany 'New York' Pollard in Flavor of Love. Or did they?
The best way to drive interest for a film is to have people talking about it. In the olden days (read: 1998) this was done by word-of-mouth. The more friends you had that talked about a film, the more likely you were to see it. Merchandise really helped this and some franchises and fandoms helped pull customers to the cinema to engage with the source of the merchandise. We're past this now. In the world of the internet and viral fame, being influenced by the echo chamber of Twitter is a key way in which film companies work on building buzz for a film, especially one with a lot of investment riding on it. Some suggest that Netflix orchestrated a heavy seeding strategy to have their Bird Box related meme content go viral and drive further engagement with the film.
This isn't beyond the realms of reality. Brands often use micro-influencers or those with a huge social media reach to post something witty about their product to drive awareness and interest in the brand. Creating accounts and posting Bird Box memes is just another way in which Netflix have harnessed the free power of social media marketing to get customers to engage with their product. For most, they were savvy about it. And they teach other brands a lesson here. They didn't bombard with ads forcing a product down their throat, they didn't state the features of the product. They showed the benefits of watching it: understanding the memes. They provided added-value content through the memes that came with it. Customers have never been more savvy (not even in the days of snake oil salesmen) so telling them about your offering has to be done in such a way that they come away knowing about it, without even realising that they do.
While our means of communication may change and the ways in which we engage with content may be worlds away from the past, there most valuable tool at anyone's disposal for driving engagement and awareness is through word of mouth. This is what Netflix were able to do expertly.