Netflix’s portrayal of convicted serial murderer Jeffrey Dahmer’s murders has been a big success for the site in certain aspects. According to Deadline, since its September 21 debut, it has been seen for approximately 300 million hours by members, and it quickly became the second-most watched show on Netflix, albeit with some huge controversial backlash.
Nevertheless, this gruesome show has sparked some debate. If you haven’t watched this infamous show yet, between 1978 and 1991, Dahmer killed and disfigured 17 men and boys. In 1992, he was found guilty and passed away in jail two years later.
Netflix has been in a sensitive situation not only with its own promotions of the show but also regarding other advertisers who are dilemmatic about advertising their brand through the show’s promotions. As marketers, this case brings out multiple aspects of controversial marketing, as at the end of the day these conversations brought the show to Netflix’s Top 10 worldwide.
To explain controversial marketing in the simplest terms, it is when brands use controversy as a marketing tactic. This might include employing imagery, message, and other sorts of content marketing that are not politically acceptable, as well as displaying a darker sense of humor to elicit a reaction from the public.
So how did controversial marketing help Netflix’s show?
The first issue was that Dahmer was originally assigned to Netflix’s “LGBTQ” category, which usually includes more positive shows like Heartstopper or Sex Education. Given that Dahmer preyed on defenseless, homosexual, black, and brown men, it felt uncomfortable that it would feature in that category alongside far livelier shows. Eventually, Netflix removed the classification after some backlash.
Another issue that Netflix raised was the possibility of individuals seeking Dahmer by uploading TikToks and tweeting about his alleged beauty. It is critical to remember that the victim’s relatives are still living and can witness the heinous tweets and TikTok videos touting Dahmer’s appeal. The tweet below by Netflix in 2019 brought discussions from TikTok to Twitter engaging its customers to talk about how the ‘bad boy archetype still exists.
By far the most controversial promotional tweet by Netflix is the company attaching one of the most dreadful scenes of the series openly on Twitter. This tweet received a huge backlash from its viewers since the caption is not only triggering but also offensive for the victim’s family members as it dramatizes the reality, pushing multiple conversational engagements.
How Could Netflix Save Its Brand Image?
One of the significant practices of controversial products such as this show includes holding the consent of those involved in the controversy out of good faith. Netflix was also looked down upon as the victims’ families claimed that they were neither informed about the show’s creation nor were the real-life characters asked for permission to be depicted. Moreover, several viewers claim that the company could’ve donated a part of their earnings to the victims’ families to grieve for their loss, instead of solely capitalizing on it.