November 2, 2016
The continuous effort that Netflix has put into the social media strategy for its TV series Narcos has contributed tremendously to the immense success of the show. In fact, its bold campaign has managed to get viewers hooked and most importantly, keep them interested in the show. By anticipating viewer intent and working to make them feel that they are part of a community, Netflix has managed to increase the popularity of its show to cult level.
Beyond any shadow of a doubt, the well-crafted social media strategy should be used as an example in the media industry because there some valuable lessons to be learned. In this article, we will present the excellent core strategies employed by Netflix in its Narcos strategy, and we will point how each of these eventually contributed to the show’s stellar success.
Know Your Assets and Use Them to Your Advantage
Netflix is a streaming network, which essentially means that they release an entire season at a time. The air format has shaped Amazon’s social media campaign for Narcos because it was realized that it must be centered on the advantages that come with streaming.
As opposed to broadcasting networks like HBO, ABC, or NBC, that can use airtime for advertising their original shows, Netflix had to concentrate the entire Narcos campaign on social media. In fact, focusing on this aspect alone has proven to be immensely advantageous in the long run.
Netflix devised such a powerful campaign on social media that Narcos became famous well before its air date. Moreover, the fans were dying to find out about the new Narcos season status only a few days after the first season was released.
A Long-Term Plan and Continuous Efforts
The main reason why Netflix’ Narcos strategy was so successful was it was aimed not only to engage the audience but also to keep them hooked for the long run. We have created a short timeline of the Narcos media strategy to point out just how well they planned its journey to success.
1. Getting Viewers Curious – The Narcos Bills Campaign
The Narcos Bills campaign was one of the edgiest promotional stunts in the entertainment business. The Netflix team wanted to point out that the war on drugs is far from being over and that it is all happening far closer to us than we realized. Did you know that there are traces of cocaine on the money we use every single day? Well, Netflix used this shocking fact to promote its show.
Its groundbreaking idea was to place traces of cocaine on 5 euro bills that would react to the flash of a typical Smartphone. The picture would relay the bill with the message “#Narcos” printed on them. As you can imagine, this made it into the news.
Then, more and more people found out that they had Narcos bills in their pocket and, as expected, they posted on social media about it. In fact, lots of them also included the trailer to Narcos in their posts, which turned the series into a true phenomenon even before it was aired. This video will give you an overview of the Narcos Bills campaign.
2. Building The Suspense on Social Media
Netflix began posting on the Narcos Facebook page on June 24, 2015. It first used enticing image teasers to build anticipation for the show. “There’s no business like the blow business,” said their first poster, referencing to the 2001 box office hit “Blow,” starring Al Pacino and Johnny Depp.
Then, it introduced video teasers featuring the air date of the first season, Aug. 28, 2015. Next came the official trailer for Narcos, which features one of the most important lines in the show: “Plata o plomo?” which was Pablo Escobar’s iconic saying.
After that, came the stunning official character posters for the show and then, pictures from the show’s premiere event in Rio de Janeiro. Netflix continued to get viewers interested in the show by posting more official stills, up to Aug. 27, 2015, when it posted the show’s excellent intro.
By this time, the Narcos Bills campaign had made foreign viewers curious, laying the perfect foundation for the show’s air date. Then, the Netflix official Facebook page used an extremely easy tactic that paid off tremendously: a poster for Narcos as the cover photo, which meant that users got to see the poster directly in their feed. This managed to get all Netflix aficionados informed about the show.
3. After Airing the Show
The Narcos campaign on social media became even more enticing after the show began streaming on Netflix. In fact, Netflix doubled its posts and introduced even more video teasers on its Facebook page.
Netflix analyzed how the users responded to photographic promotional material compared to video material, and it realized its video teasers were considerably more efficient. As such, Netflix created a groundbreaking visual campaign for Narcos, featuring an impressive amount of footage from the actual show.
Moreover, Netflix used its streaming format to its advantage once more. Because Netflix was not bound to weekly episodes, it used material featuring key moments from the entire first season. The promotional videos were so efficient that the show’s viewer base exploded in the first month after the show was aired.
4. Keeping Fans Interested
One of the most impressive aspects of Netflix’s Narcos social media campaign was how it managed to get users involved. This was the most important thing that set this campaign apart from the others.
A Personalized Approach on Fan Reach
Since social media is Netflix’s main means of communication with its views, it took fan reach to an entirely new level. It actually took the time to respond to comments on its Narcos Facebook page to get viewers involved in the development of the show. This was one of the core strategies and it worked amazingly.
Building Momentum After the First Season
Netflix anticipated that fans would be yearning for more Narcos trivia, so it began hinting to the show’s second season very early on. It kept fans invested in the show by posting video and photographic promotional material for the following months.
Netflix included historic trivia about Pablo Escobar and the drug war in Columbia, as well as themed promotional stills for holidays like Daylight Savings, Dia de Los Muertos, and Thanksgiving. The company even created a fundraising campaign for the Movember Foundation, which is a multinational charity focused on men’s health.
Then, starting June 4, 2016, it began advertising the show’s second season with a video teaser announcing Pablo Escobar’s return in September 2026. The official trailer for the second season of Narcos was posted on Facebook on June 13, and it got rave reviews.
Addressing Historical Spoilers with Confidence
It’s no secret that Pablo Escobar is eventually killed, but fans were obviously wondering if the death of the central character would be included in the show’s second season. Since the first season was brilliantly fast-paced, fans began to wonder whether the remaining part of Escobar’s story would be spread across two or more seasons.
Moreover, fans began thinking that the second season would be a let-down precisely because the action would be dragged along to avoid Escobar’s death and get another season. But Netflix silenced these rumors for good with a very bold poster on their Facebook page that simply said “Pablo Dies.” As they mentioned in their post, “History is the biggest spoiler.”
Then, Netflix began leaving bread crumbs for the fans, all the way up to the official air date of the second season. This included wonderful teaser content, as well as the introduction of Narcopedia.org, an online platform meant to help fans interact with the historical aspects of Pablo Escobar’s story.
The platform features a timeline that correlates the historical facts that the show is based on with the action in each episode of the show. At the moment, Narcopedia is updated for the second season as well. It is a very useful tool for passionate fans that manages to highlight the tremendous research that was done for creating Narcos.
Learn Spanish With Narcos
This was yet another brilliant campaign used to increase the show’s fan base. For this project, Netflix teamed up with Babbel.com to create an online platform where people can exercise their Spanish Narcos-style. It also made a series of hilarious videos featuring actor Wagner Moura, who plays Pablo Escobar on the show.
In these short clips, he teaches viewers several key phrases in Spanish, such as “Plata o plomo” or “Que en paz descanse.” Then, the clips include footage from the show where these phrases were used. The campaign was extremely successful and got viewers curious about the second season of the show.
5. Getting Fans Ready for Narcos Without Pablo Escobar
Getting viewers to stay invested in a show centered on a such a powerful villain like Pablo Escobar after this leading character is killed off is undoubtedly a difficult task. However, if anybody can do this seemingly impossible task, it’s Netflix.
The campaign for the show’s third season has already begun, and it aims to remind fans that the Columbian drug war went on even after Pablo Escobar’s death. The two main strategies are the following:
1. Getting viewers interested in the show’s new villains.
The central villains in the third season of Narcos will most likely be the members of the Cali cartel, which also play a key role in the second season as well. Netflix made the change official in the first teaser trailer for season 3, which features Pablo Escobar fading away into the darkness and Gilberto Orejuela, the leader of the Cali cartel, rising into the spotlight. The video ends with “The blow must go on,” thus setting the mood for the upcoming season.
2. Reminding fans that Murphy and Pena have a few more stories left to tell.
Pablo Escobar was such a fascinating character that most fans forgot that Narcos was in fact meant to be a story about how the DEA fought the drug war in Colombia. As such, there is still so much more to this story, even after Pablo Escobar’s death.
The most recent posts on the Narcos Facebook page feature video promos meant to remind fans just how powerful the Cali cartel was and enticing posts about Pena and Murphy. We can’t wait to see what Netflix will think of next, but we’ll be there watching every step of the way.
Whether or not Narcos will manage to survive in spite of Pablo Escobar’s death remains to be seen in 2017, but judging by the remarkable campaign on social media, everybody will tune in to find out. Netflix’s promotional campaign for the show is one of the strongest in the media industry. It is an excellent example of perseverance, thorough research, and sheer talent, which all media buffs should regard as a professional objective.
Erik Winther has a degree in Video Production and hopes he'll launch his own movie as soon as possible. Till then, he enjoys writing about cinematography.