Netflix Discovers It Has a Marketing Problem

Adage reports that Netflix is replacing its chief marketing officer Leslie Kilgore. You don't say? I'm nearly as surprised as I was when yesterday was Thursday. Netflix' marketing was nothing short of disasterous last year.

It's little wonder the company is looking for someone new. Kilgore has been running Netflix marketing since 2000, and obviously has done a lot of good work in that time. But 2011? Sheesh. It was an utter disaster. And much of that can be laid at the feet of bad marketing.

The thing is, Netflix' actual product—video delivery—remained solid. In some ways (like its new iPad or Android apps) it even improved. But marketing and messaging was an outright disaster. I mean, it took one of the most-recognized brands in technology, split it in half, and renamed its main business after a foul-mouthed, dope-smoking kid on Twitter without ever bothering to secure the handle.

Worse, it didn't gauge customer reactions before making big changes. Even that disastrous new pricing scheme, could likely have been handled smoothly with better communications and marketing aimed at giving customers an incentive to swap—or at least some sticky streaming price point that people would have been wowed by. Instead it just came off as arrogant and out of touch with what its customers wanted.

So it spent much of 2011 backpedaling, apologizing, and being mocked. It rolled out bizarre videos, and seemed to be in pure reaction mode much of the time. Its press was almost entirely lousy. Users revolted. All because it couldn't explain what it was doing, or why you should buy into it. And it seemed to be completely ignorant of how its customers would react to anything it did.

Now, if only it could do something about that CEO.