Qwikster About Face: Netflix’s Non-Rebrand Rebrand

I have been known to binge-watch a TV season or ten. My most recent conquests were Season 3 of House of Cards, The Honourable Woman, and Season 1 of Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt. All were served up by Netflix.

Not Qwikster.

Remember Qwikster? It was the name chosen to rebrand Netflix’s DVD-by-mail service, which was to be split off as a separate division from Netflix’s streaming service. The split and rebrand were announced in September 2011.

I remember Qwikster well. I had just finished binge-watching Season 4 of Dexter via Netflix’s DVD service when the Netflix/Qwikster split was announced by Netflix CEO and Co-Founder Reed Hastings. The split came along with a rate hike and logistical issues. Those things led me and over 799,999 of my friends to cancel our Netflix subscriptions. As a result, Netflix’s stock tumbled from $298 to $53.

Reacting quickly to the public backlash (and Wall Street’s response), less than one month after the announcement, Hastings pulled the plug on the Qwikster rebrand and announced that the DVD-by-mail service would remain a part of Netflix. Hastings wrote that he “messed up,” and fessed up that he “owe everyone an explanation” because “t clear from the feedback over the past two months that many members felt we lacked respect and humility in the way we announced the separation of DVD and streaming, and the price.”

And so Qwikster was no more. Left in its wake were two federal trademark applications for Qwikster filed on September 19, 2011. Both applications were abandoned on January 16, 2013.

Hastings announcement that Netflix was reversing course on the rebrand was widely praised. (Branding experts take note, some people praising the decision pointed out that part of the public’s rejection of the Qwikster rebrand may have related to its quirky name.)

Fast forward four years. Many of the knee-jerk cancelers have returned to the service (Guilty!). Netflix’s stock is hovering around $480, and Netflix’s original programming is making waves. Qwikster seems a distant memory. But businesses looking to rebrand should always keep it in mind. If your business decides to rebrand, remember that sometimes the public (and Wall Street) know better. It probably took a lot for Netflix to admit that Qwikster was a misstep, but Netflix did so quickly and now it seems unbreakable.

As in Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt. Claim your reward for making it to the end of this post!