Oh No, Netflix: What Happened to Love is Sharing a Password?

Have you ever shared your Netflix password? For many people, the answer to this question is undoubted yes. Parents, sweethearts, and friends often share Netflix passwords to allow their favorite people to watch movies & shows. 

And Netflix has had enough. New rules regarding how passwords can be shared and with those who have recently debuted. Using a very traditional definition of family, Netflix now demands extra fees be paid for access for anyone who can not access the primary subscribing household’s internet at least once every thirty days. 

Netflix customers have not well received this news. 

As Competition Increases, Love Becomes Much More Important

While Netflix pioneered streaming services, they’re no longer the only game in town. There are over 50 streaming sites in the US alone – including big players like Paramount and Disney Plus, which have robust libraries of highly desirable content. More than 50% of households that subscribe to streaming services are subscribed to more than one. 

In this highly competitive environment, the relationship between brand and customer becomes even more important. Netflix’s moves to tighten up account access introduces a degree of difficulty into what was previously easy for their customers. The idea that a college student or partner working at a great distance from the family home now has to return once a month to log into the home internet account to access a subscription the household pays for is aggravating, insulting, and often impossible. 

On the other hand, the 50+ other streaming services don’t have this requirement. This gives the many families who would fall under Netflix’s new guidelines the opportunity to question if their subscription is worth it.

Also: Have You Noticed the Headlines About an Impending Recession?

Customer reactions to Netflix’s move have focused mainly on its financial implications for their household. A parent with two college students living some distance away will now have to pay $45 monthly for Netflix instead of $15.  

The Netflix leadership might counter with the information that they’re having financial troubles too. Massive subscriber losses over 2022 have led the streaming service to take several steps to stabilize their finances. Ads have been introduced, and now the password-sharing limits are being implemented in hopes it will boost revenues. 

However, these moves are doing little to endear Netflix to its customers. Diminishing the quality of the customer experience and treating customers in a way that makes them feel like criminals does not build loving feelings. And without love, customers will leave – compounding the problems Netflix already is having.

Why Not a Love-Building Strategy?

Netflix has options. Some of the most creative minds in the world work there. So why don’t we see a strategy to counter their real problems based on increasing the amount of love customers have for the brand?

When you love someone and want them to stay, you don’t start treating them worse. Of course, that’s my thinking based on years of helping cult brands achieve and maintain their dominant positions. I’d love to hear how you would address this situation. Please share your thoughts below. 

The Ad-Solute Truth: Over 50s on the Adventure of a Lifetime

Saga Holidays, a UK travel brand for people over 50, has launched a new campaign about older people’s vacation preferences. 

Here is something that jumps out about the truth of great creativity: the Saga Holidays campaign successfully challenges common stereotypes about older travelers and highlights the reality of their preferences and interests. 

Marketing teams can learn to confront stereotypes in their campaigns and present a more accurate picture of their target audience.

What stereotypes can you shatter with your marketing approach?

Hacked Again: How Serious is T-Mobile’s Security Problems to Customers?

Another day, another headline about a massive security breach. This time, it’s T-Mobile in the spotlight. The world’s second largest wireless carrier has been hit again – the fifth incident in which customer data has been accessed illegally or otherwise violated in since 2018.

Five breaches in five years – as the CNet headline points out – isn’t a record to be proud of. But my question here is if you think these breaches are enough to persuade T-Mobile customers to switch carriers. Based on the work I’ve done researching the role trust and love play in loyalty, I’m inclined to say no.


T-Mobile may have had five breaches in five years, but how many has AT&T had in that same time span? Verizon? US Cellular? Cyber criminals have been so persistent and successful that at this point, customers largely perceive the internet itself to be an inherently unsafe environment. 84% of respondents to an Ipsos survey felt at least somewhat concerned about the security of the data they provide online. One in three has already been through at least one data breach. 

At the same time, T-Mobile consistently earns top marks for customer care. They’re the 23-time winner of the J.D. Power U.S. Wireless Customer Care Mobile Network Operator Performance Study – an honor granted in large part due to reliable service, reasonable pricing, and a relatively good customer service experience.

Do T-Mobile customers love their wireless service passionately? Probably not. But do they love them enough to preclude them from making a change of carriers – often a hassle – to be in on a network they reasonably feel is equally at risk? I don’t think so. 

Time will tell, but until then, I’d love to hear what you think!

The Ad-Solute Truth: IKEA proves how a little kindness can go a long way

Ikea’s new ad campaign highlights the relationship between our homes and our well-being. The ad features a little boy and a large, hairy troll who turns out to be not so scary after all. When the boy offers an Ikea lamp to brighten up the troll’s living space, things begin to change. Together, they transform the space into a bright and cozy home, and once the troll is happy, the long-tormented villagers above lift the barrier and are finally free to cross the bridge above in peace.

How can we highlight the relationship between our product or service and the overall well-being and happiness of our customers?

Soon We’re Going to Be Unloading Trucks: Walmart Provides Lessons in Losing Love

So there you are, driving your car to the next client meeting when suddenly that dreaded TPMS  warning light comes on. Something is definitely wrong with your tire and you need to deal with it fast. Or maybe this is the play-at-home version of the story where you are happily headed out the door, keys in hand, only to discover that your car has a flat. 

In either situation, you’re going to ask: how did this happen?

There are three ways tires lose air. They either suffer a traumatic event, the ambient conditions contribute to air loss, or the tire has one or more leaks. 

Traumatic events are something you’re definitely familiar with if you drive in Miami, Boston, LA, or any other city where road construction just never stops. We all know that if a tire hits some construction debris or even some extra sharp gravel, damage happens. Air can be lost from tires due to ambient conditions, such as when the temperature drops to 50 degrees below zero. Tire leaks can let the air out slowly and steadily over the course of time, escaping notice until the problem reaches a significant degree. 

Air is to tires as love is to brands: absolutely necessary to maintaining functionality and gained only by effort—and often expense—and lost through a myriad of ways. 

Brands don’t just want to be loved, they need to be loved if they’re going to survive in the competitive world we live in. That’s why, as an industry, we see so much effort and attention paid to gaining more love. We see the tire is getting flat, we rush to change the way we attract love: Perhaps we will drop prices! Perhaps we will roll out a new product! Perhaps we will do a funny commercial! Perhaps we will launch a cool contest on social media! Perhaps, perhaps, perhaps…

Perhaps we need to find out why the tire is losing air.

Brands lose love through the same trio of mechanisms that cause tires to lose air. These are not uncommon events. Whether through poor decision-making or factors beyond their control, brands are vulnerable to losing love every single day. 

Here are three relatively recent examples to consider: 

Love Lost through a Traumatic Event: Wizards of the Coast Pulls the D&D Open License

Dungeons & Dragons fans are notoriously emotional about their attachment to the game. One campaign has been going continuously since 1982! So what would it take to make this devoted customer group declare they were done with the brand?

Warning: some hard-core nerdery follows. 

At the heart of the D&D community’s prolific output of games, novels, and merchandise was the Open Games License (OGL) that allowed anyone to use the D&D core rules and certain lore in their own creations. Specific copyrighted and trademarked content was not included under this license. These creations could be for personal use or sold. 

This arrangement has been in place for decades and had, for many, been considered an unchangeable situation. The D&D fans trusted and loved the OGL.

Hasbro—who owns D&D—announced that there would be significant changes to the OGL. These changes would impact a very small percentage of creators—only those who had more than $750,000 in revenues—and were justified as a measure to help D&D avoid subsidizing its competition. 

This was the equivalent of a high-speed blowout. All of a sudden, D&D was hemorrhaging love. The fan outrage was so great not because of the impact—an estimated 20 creators globally were going to wind up paying royalties under the proposed new OGL—but because the OGL had been changed.

Within 6 days, Wizards of the Coast had to pull a 180 and announce that the original update to the OGL had merely been a draft and that going forward, they’d be soliciting community commentary before making any changes to the OGL. 

But it may well be too little, too late: Pazio (D&D’s most serious competitor) announced it would fund, but not own, an Open RPG Creative License to meet the needs—and presumably, win the loyalty—of D&D fans who feel deeply betrayed. 

This is an example of a self-inflicted traumatic event: The Wizards of the Coast leadership could have discovered the third-rail nature of the OGL via even minimal interaction with their customer base. But, things don’t always work that way. 

For example, Tide did absolutely nothing to start or encourage the Tide Pod challenge. This internet craze led to people eating the laundry detergent product. It sounds like a ridiculous thing to do, but more than 7,000 people were injured and 6 died. Tide lost a lot of love during this time, despite their strenuous efforts involving top-tier celebrity talent to get people to stop eating Tide Pods. 

Love Lost through a Change in Ambient Conditions: COVID & the Restaurant Industry

Conservative estimates tell us that approximately 80,000 restaurants failed during the COVID pandemic. This was not a matter of love being lost because the restaurants had bad food, terrible service, or any other measure within their control. Pandemic restrictions, including lengthy lockdowns during which businesses were forced to close, kept people from patronizing restaurants the way they did before. 

This is the most frustrating way to lose love because there’s nothing the business can do to correct the situation. Many restaurants did go to extraordinary lengths and adapted their businesses to survive pandemic conditions, but it was definitely a hardship for the entire industry.

Another example from food service is McDonald’s in Russia. If you’re old enough to remember Gorbachev, you’re old enough to remember a time when fast food did not exist in Russia. During Soviet times, there simply was not that concept in Russia.

However, glasnost happened. McDonald’s invested millions and millions of dollars in creating the infrastructure necessary to have fast food restaurants in Russia. This involved a lot of health, safety, and cleanliness practices that had to be taught to and practiced by people who had never done business that way before. 

It was absolutely an uphill swim, but McDonald’s won the day. It took 32 years, but there were 850 thriving restaurants in Russia. Brand recognition was strong and an entire people learned—for better or worse—the pleasures of American-style fast food.

Putin’s invasion of Ukraine was an immediate and dramatic change in the ambient conditions for McDonald’s. While the Russian people may have still loved the Golden Arches, the Russian government no longer loved the American brand and they had to go. 

Love Lost through Slow Leaks: Welcome to Wal-Mart. Hope You Brought Your Bags

It will come as no surprise to anyone familiar with my work that I’m generally a fan of Walmart. They’ve invested heavily in understanding their customer. They’ve done a good job delivering value, often through strategic partnerships with brands otherwise unaffordable to their base. 

The experience of shopping at Walmart was never comparable to what you’d experience at a high-end retailer. But, it was reliably adequate for quite some time. People knew what they were getting into when they headed down to Wally World to pick up a few things. 

Now, however, Walmart’s customers are feeling like going to the world’s biggest retailer is becoming a second job. After shopping, you have to check yourself out and bag your order using your own bags—all while under the semi-watchful and often hostile eye of a loss-prevention employee. It’s not a good experience. And, as Walmart customers complain, the workload is increasing with each trip. 

Soon, the social media memes claim, shoppers will be required to help unload the trucks. 

This is the sound of a lot of air leaking out of the tires fast. As brand managers, we need to be very aware when customers voice their feelings that the relationship with the brand has changed. This is especially true when the change is negative.

This is even more important when a brand is in the midst of a pivot, the way Walmart is. 

As digital sales and delivery take up more and more of Walmart’s attention, it’s critical that they address the negative experience their in-store customers are having.  With inflation worries keeping prices high, there’s no reason to go to a store that makes picking up groceries even more exhausting and stressful than it already is. 

If You Want to Be Safe on the Road, You Need to Check Your Tires

It’s easy to take the condition of our tires for granted. But when you know you’re going on a long trip or you’re bringing the family along for a ride, chances are you give the car a quick once over before departing.  You want to know your car is in good shape to face whatever hazards may be ahead.

In much the same way, brand managers need to regularly review how much their customers love them. 

Is this amount of love the same, more, or less than it was previously? 

If your brand is losing love, this is a definite indication that changes need to be made. 

Identifying the nature of the love loss—traumatic event, ambient condition change, or lots of leaks—will help you develop the most appropriate strategy to address the issue. Whether that’s addressing and overcoming the traumatic event, compensating for ambient condition changes, or changing the way you do business to provide a better experience and stop all the leaks, your ultimate goal is to hold onto the love your customers already have for you. 

If you’re lucky, you might even be able to make that love stronger.

The Ad-Solute Truth:  It’s not about the things you have lost. It’s about the things you’ve found

DieHard’s use of storytelling to connect with consumers and communicate the brand’s values caught our attention. DieHard uses the story of a former United States Marine Corps sergeant who was injured in Afghanistan and went on to become a die-hard mountain climber to connect with customers and communicate the brand’s values of dependability, durability, and power. 

What stories demonstrate your brand’s most enduring attributes?

Nancy Reagan, the Buddha, and You: On the future of your brand

The Buddha says, “The problem is you think that you have time.”

Nancy Reagan echoes and expands upon this wisdom, saying, “You learn something out of everything, and you come to realize more than ever that we’re all here for a certain space of time, and, then it’s going to be over, and you better make this count.”

And here we have you. How much time do you have to help your brand achieve greatness? 

You’re One Brand Among Millions

This isn’t a post about your physical well-being, although I certainly hope you’re all taking excellent care of yourselves. This is a post about the pressures your brand is under when the typical consumer encounters at least 1,500 brands a day. And, that’s assuming that consumer doesn’t stop in at the corner grocery store to grab a soda. A simple errand like that raises the number of brands that one individual encounters to over 35,000.

To function in this environment, customers need to develop some level of brand blindness. No one has the cognitive capacity to remember the individual attributes of so many different organizations. They only see the brands that are relevant to them. 

What makes a brand relevant? The relationship the customer has with the brand. 

And, how long do relationships take to develop? You may believe in love at first sight, but, for the vast majority of people, deciding they like someone (and then even further that they love someone) takes some time. Relationships are built interaction by interaction, encounter by encounter. It’s why people date before they marry: they’re trying to discover what life will be like if they commit to their partner. 

Think through the experience your customers have. Is it wonderful enough to make them fall at least a little bit in love with you? If the answer is no, you’re running out of time to develop a relationship with that person. There’s always a competitor waiting in the wings who will see the value in being nicer and providing a better experience. 

The time pressure is real. But, brands often make the mistake of taking their customers for granted. Look (back in time) at RadioShack: There was a brand who should have had fantastic relationships with their customers—home electronics enthusiasts who generally had no other avenues to source the components, tools, and toys they needed and wanted. When CB radios were extremely popular, RadioShack was right in the middle of that boom. And, they were early players serving the home computer market. 

But the times changed and Radio Shack was suddenly in competition with online vendors.

Instead of moving to compete with these vendors, RadioShack stayed where it was—and let’s be real, the Venn diagram describing RadioShack shoppers and early adopters of online shopping have a lot of entirely predictable overlap.

RadioShack ended up losing a real opportunity to build love. And, trust was gone: the customers saw RadioShack as a brand that didn’t align with their technologically progressive values.

In the relative blink of an eye, the hundred-year-old brand was sold off as a defunct brand by REV, which is now using the branding to sell cryptocurrency. 

You always have less time than you think. RadioShack had reason to believe in its stable, enduring nature, but they lost their customers’ love.

What would you have done differently if you were in charge at RadioShack?

What would you do differently now, if you believed your customer relationships were truly vulnerable?

The Ad-Solute Truth: iPhone 14 | R.I.P. Leon | Apple 

We all can learn from Apple’s approach to combining practical product demonstrations with entertaining advertising. They create ads that effectively showcase their product’s features while engaging and entertaining the audience. 

In this ad, Apple features unique and attention-grabbing elements to make the product stand out and create a memorable experience for the viewer.

What service or product feature can you showcase in your next advertising campaign?

How will you make it entertaining?

No Matter How Fast You Go, You Can’t Outrun Your Past: Lessons in Leadership from the USA FIFA World Cup Coach Gregg Berhalter

As a brand manager, there’s nothing you’d like more than to have an entire organization full of people who never once made a bad choice or stupid decision. That’s the way to avoid scandals from events that happened ten, twenty, thirty, or even more years ago disrupting your current operation. 

But, people are human. Over the course of their lives, things happen that they wish wouldn’t. This makes these individuals vulnerable: if someone doesn’t like the way they act, the threat of having previous bad behavior exposed can be used against them.

With Friends Like This, Who Needs Enemies?

That’s the situation USA FIFA World Cup Coach Gregg Berhalter faced. One of his players—the child of nearly lifelong family friends—was upset at not receiving as much play time as he thought he deserved. There were public conversations where this player was anonymously mentioned and, in retaliation, the player’s parents contacted US Soccer with information about a fight the coach had with his girlfriend over 30 years ago.

While there are no legal ramifications for Berhalter due to this disclosure—he has been married to the girlfriend in question for a long time now, with a happy family—his role as head coach is now no longer as assured as it once was. US Soccer has enough issues going on without additional bad publicity related to what one of its key employees did a long time ago.

So What Do You Do In This Situation?

Berhalter has chosen to address this issue in a fairly straightforward manner. He acknowledged the incident happened, discussed that the family had to do some work to overcome issues, and was now healthier and stronger than it was then. Then, he consistently tries to turn the conversation to other issues that are more relevant to the US Soccer team. 

Will this be sufficient to secure his position? I honestly cannot tell you. It is, however, a smart strategy if Berhatler’s goal is to rebuild trust with his employer, his team, the fans, and the larger world of sport. A frank, contextualized description of events feeds people’s need to know and eliminates the sense that information is being held back. When the only event that people are disclosing happened thirty years ago, it stands to reason that there’s not much more meat on the bone scandal-wise. The nature of the complaint, in a strange way, provides proof of character. His own admission and statement that he had to work and grow to become a better person is a story many people can believe and relate to. 

What do you think? If you were in the position to guide US Soccer communications, how would you counsel Berhalter to behave? I’d love to hear your thoughts.

Did Marcel Marcondes Have a Better World Cup than Lionel Messi?


There’s an exercise I use to help developing marketing teams build their skill set. It’s based on the experience so many of you have already gone through in real life: you carefully & thoughtfully create a campaign to achieve a number of specific brand goals, only to discover that one or more marketing channels can’t be used the way you’d planned. 

What happens to these careful plans if you can’t use social media? If you no longer have the budget for television? Radio? Signage? Thinking through these type of scenarios helps teams learn to adjust their plans on the fly, using creative thinking and professional skills to get the job done even when circumstances change.

In December, the InBev team faced the Final Boss level of this challenge: what happens to your careful plan if you can’t sell your product?

Quick Backstory if You Missed This Part

Budweiser has been the Official Beer Sponsor of the World Cup for the past 36 years. The InBev team knew there would be challenges in presenting their product in Qatar, a Muslim country that strictly controls alcohol sales. Millions of dollars and years of work went into creating a campaign to enable Budweiser to deliver the in-stadium experience World Cup fans expect while honoring Qatari rules. At the very last minute—fans had already begun to arrive in country—Qatar changed its position: no Budweiser would be able to be sold at the World Cup.

Well, This is Awkward

With one remarkably understated tweet, the InBev team acknowledged the magnitude of these rule changes. And then, with skill and speed similar to what Messi displayed on the field, InBev’s Global CMO Marcel Marcondes’s team executed a beautiful pivot that helped Budweiser achieve many, if not all, of its marketing goals.

What happens if you can’t sell your product in one country? You can award your product as a prize to the winning country. They Budweiser team created the Bring Home the Bud campaign, a multi-day over-the-top campaign that tracked branded red shipping containers around the world to Argentina, with parties in several cities including Messi’s hometown, before culminating in a massive party in Rosario where fans danced and partied on a crate painted with #BringHomeTheBud.

This strategy effectively extended the World Cup sponsorship by several days and definitely strengthened the bond between FIFA fans and Budweiser. A level of excitement was generated that probably would not have occurred if the original plan to sell beer in the stands had been permitted to go forward. It’s a masterful piece of work by the Budweiser marketing team, who pulled this all together in a very abbreviated timeframe.

It’s a good lesson for all of us. There’s no telling what the future will hold. And, any aspect of your campaign can fall apart with little to no notice. The brands that can pivot quickly are the ones that succeed in the long run.

So tell me: What would you have done if you’d been in charge of InBev at this time? What would your winning World Cup strategy have been? I would love to hear your thoughts.