Marketing Agency Leadership Brand Strategy

Marketing’s new playbook: how Netflix, the NBA and Lego are embracing change

By Nathalie Ramirez | Chief growth officer

Maker Lab


The Drum Network article

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October 17, 2023 | 8 min read

What’s the point of a marketer? Some will say it’s to help a brand meet the world as it really is. That’s tricky when the world changes so rapidly, says Maker Lab’s Nathalie Ramirez – but all hope’s not yet lost.

Lego Batman and Superman, enjoying Lego icecreams

How have brands like the NBA, Lego and Netflix embraced the new, ever-changing marketing landscape / Yulia Matvienko via Unsplash

Having spent over two decades in the marketing industry in the US and Southeast Asia, I’ve weathered numerous shifts and transformations. None of them has been as seismic as the ones induced by recent global events. We’re somewhere in the aftermath of a global pandemic, trying to navigate the ripple effects it has left on supply chains, living costs, and the way we work, with the specter of perpetual crises looming overhead.

Where can marketing find its direction in this constantly changing game?

To answer this question, we urgently need to redefine our marketing approaches and focus on three pivotal areas: hyperlocalization, agility, and collaboration. The thinking I present here isn’t just my own – it was developed through consultations with industry peers at The Marketing Society and the American Chamber of Commerce, in-depth research (aka my LinkedIn feed), and direct interactions with clients who grapple with these new realities daily.

1. Home court advantage: The power of hyperlocalization

In this globally connected world, there’s a paradoxical preference for the local, the intimate. Hyperlocal marketing taps into this sentiment, fine-tuning global strategies to resonate in every locality.

This approach recognizes that, while we’re part of a global village, the narratives that hit home are those shared among neighbors. It demands precision in personalization, modifying global narratives to intimately resonate with every consumer, respecting the variety in local cultures, traditions, and needs.

The National Basketball Association (NBA)’s approach to hyperlocalization in APAC provides a valuable illustration. The NBA doesn’t offer a one-size-fits-all approach to APAC, but carefully crafts its outreach to resonate with the distinct cultural nuances and preferences of each country.

For instance, in the Philippines, a country with a rich basketball heritage, the NBA has focused on grassroots programs, local events, and partnerships with local broadcasters to show games during peak viewing times. In China, on the other hand, where digital consumption is enormous, the NBA has forged partnerships with popular digital platforms like Tencent for live streaming. The league also celebrates events like the Lunar New Year with special-themed games and merchandise.

Similarly, in India, recognizing the country's nascent basketball culture, the NBA initiated the ‘Reliance Foundation Jr. NBA program’, aimed at teaching basketball skills and the core values of the game to young students.

2. Fast breaks: The essence of agility and velocity

Agility is the ability to quickly adjust and adapt to new conditions, responding to new information and maintaining resilience amid disruptions. It is about realizing opportunities and potential changes and acting on them effectively.

Netflix’s approach to social media exemplifies this. When a show or scene becomes a meme or goes viral organically, Netflix’s social media teams are quick to jump on the trend. For instance, when horror-thriller movie Bird Box premiered, memes relating to the movie flooded the internet. Instead of sticking to a pre-planned content calendar, Netflix capitalized on this unexpected virality, sharing and amplifying user-generated content, further boosting its popularity.

The streamer’s use of real-time data analytics by a creative community management team allows it to monitor what’s resonating with audiences, then quickly produce content around that theme. This is velocity in action: it’s not just about recognizing an opportunity but seizing it immediately.

With the streaming wars intensifying, trends can flash and fade fast. Netflix’s combo of agility with velocity ensures that it remains not just in the game but ahead of it.

3. Full court press: Embracing transformative collaboration

Legacy operational models in marketing have often been hierarchical, rigid, and siloed. But the age-old gap between creative and media is narrowing, especially as digital marketing emphasizes the symbiosis of content and platform. The evolution of Lego’s social media presence exemplifies this transformation. The toy giant agilely responds to current events, user-generated content, and pop culture, integrating creative and media strategies seamlessly for maximum impact.

There’s a clear appetite, across brands, for new ways of working. Recognizing the need for tighter integration and real-time decision-making, they’re leaning into in-housing. Lego, for instance, has been harnessing in-house capabilities to drive real-time engagements and craft tailored content, fostering fluid, adaptive collaborations on platforms like Instagram and Twitter.

By sidelining outdated methods for this new era of transformative collaboration, strategies emerge that are more attuned to today’s market tempo, reflecting current needs while looking forward.

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Game plans of the future

Marketing must recalibrate, transcend outdated models, and create strategies that resonate authentically, balancing global and local narratives, and tradition and innovation. We must embrace the responsibility to be game changers, to lead in creating impactful, responsible, and enduring connections, shaping the future of marketing in an interconnected world.

Here’s a challenge to marketers – brands and agencies alike: let’s go from being responsive to being revolutionary. The ball’s in our court. In a world that never stands still, neither should we.

Marketing Agency Leadership Brand Strategy

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Maker Lab

Maker Lab is a marketing consultancy established in 2015 with a talent-centric approach, designed to build and run in-house micro-agencies alongside our clients.

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