For Netflix, There’s Always Money in the Banana Stand

There’s always money in the banana stand.

So says George Bluth, the patriarch of the well-to-do, quirky family chronicled in Arrested Development, a sitcom which ran quietly on FOX between 2003 and 2006 but developed a rabid cult following its cancellation. In the years following, rumors of a fourth season and a movie in the works popped up time and again. Then finally, in 2011, Netflix agreed to license and exclusively distribute a fourth season through its streaming network.

That entire season’s 15 episodes were released on May 26.

Following the successful release of the critically acclaimed House of Cards series earlier this year, Netflix is aiming to redefine how Americans experience television. No more commercials. No more weeklong waits between episodes. A complete catering to the instant gratification we demand. (And it works: I totally crushed House of Cards over the course of two or three days and am mostly done with Arrested Development in less than a week.)

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So how does Netflix profit off its investment in Arrested Development? Well, as George Bluth says, there’s always money in the banana stand. (For those not in the know, the Bluth family owned a stand that sold chocolate dipped frozen bananas near the beach. George lined that stand—which is ultimately burned down by his son and grandson—with $250,000 in cash.)

Recently, Netflix toured the globe with the famed Bluth Banana Stand, setting up shop in Times Square, at Yankees Stadium, in London and in Los Angeles. With some of the show’s stars—like Jason Bateman and Will Arnett—in tow.

The catch? No schedule was ever released as to where the banana stand would pop up and who would accompany it. Instead, those behind the show directed you to keep an eye out on @arresteddev, the show’s official Twitter handle, which announced when and where the stand would be set up, while also retweeting comments made by the actors who would be on hand on a particular day.

The result? Thousands of diehard fans came out for the experience, while even more of those not in the know were exposed to the banana stand and therefore the show and undoubtedly began asking questions. For Netflix—in addition to rewarding the show’s most rabid followers—that meant chatter, lead generation and customer acquisition.

Lacking the ability to advertise the show in the traditional sense—with commercials on a television channel—the marketing team at Netflix thought outside the box and generated hype for Arrested Development unconventionally. This is just one such example.

Marketers of all brands and products are sure to benefit from never getting comfortable and instead taking a tip from this playbook, thinking of out-of-the-box ways to reach potential customers in our ever-changing world. Have you embraced a unique marketing venture with strapped cash? The only thing precluding you from marketing innovation is your imagination. So grab a frozen banana and stretch your brain.

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