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Like a growing amoeba, Netflix decided to split into two. The "Netflix" brand will remain as the online streaming "watch instantly" company, but the DVDs by mail will become "Qwikster" which is amusing because it's definitely slower than watching instantly on Netflix.
So they lifted their own brand and made the envelopes that look like Netflix, only with the "Qwikster" logo. They bought a couple of the mispellings of their mispelled brand, including the Quickster.com for the more literal minded of us.
But, they didn't get Twitter.
There's this guy named Jason Castillo who has something like 12,000 followers for his account -- @Qwikster. He tweets entertaining comments like, "Bored as shyt wanna blaze but at the same time I don't ugh fuck it where's the bowl at spark me up lls" and isn't even close to being confused for a Netflix company.
And there's Jacqueline Quick with the literal spelling, @Quickster. Yesterday she posted ":) Thank you to all my followers...don't know what is happening, but clearly something I'm in the dark about. I shouldn't be so reckless."
I'm guessing she isn't the in the dark anymore, but Netflix apparently was when they chose "Qwikster" for a brand.
On my theme about Brand Identity Theft I've covered blatant knock-offs, parody and co-opting a competitors advertising icons. These are all after the fact; no one would have created a twitter account called "Applebees" if the restaurant didn't exist. There wouldn't be any profit in poking fun of Santa drinking Pepsi if Coke hadn't basically created the modern day Santa.
We know brands protect themselves when attacked, so it's odd that Netflix created a brand and didn't secure the new brand's name on one of the largest social media sites in the world. There are two ways I think this could have happened.
On the one hand, Netflix (or their branding agency) either didn't do the research, or figured that Twitter didn't matter. Which is pretty hard to believe. On the other hand, they may have saw the account, talked about ways to make the account go away, and decided that there is, indeed, no way that anyone is going to confuse @Qwikster with the movie service and @Quickster even less so. And in the process, they can get a little ripple effect.
Fox News posted an article, Sorry, Netflix! @Qwikster Twitter Account Owned by 'Pot-Smoking Elmo'. TechCrunch posted Uh Oh Ö Qwikster Already Has A Lively Twitter Account, But Itís Not Owned By Netflix. The Boston Globe, msnbc, The Washington Post... the list goes on for the press this little snafu is generating.
Is it good press? Not really, but outside of the business pages, there wasn't a lot of reporting going on about the new Netflix company. Of course a company that's more a tech company than a movie company should appear a bit more Social Media savvy, but there isn't much they can do. (For example, they can't buy the account because that violates Twitter's terms of service and they can't sue him because he was Qwikster first.)
So, they can let it ride. @Qwikster can continue to post random comments from his Blackberry, bask in the momentary glow of incidental fame, and then, if breaks Twitter's terms of service by trying to sell it, imitate the brand, or even just badmouth the brand, they can have him shut down.
Which, in my opinion, isn't fair. @Qwikster was there first, and, for a change, it's not the little guy hijacking the big-boy's brand for fun and profit, it's the big boy stealing the little twitter guy's brand.