Early Monday morning Netflix announced a new service, Qwikster, that will do what the original Netflix did: deliver movies to mailboxes. The entity known as Netflix will limit itself to streaming movies and other content (notably games) to customers’ computers and TV sets.
The bifurcation follows Netflix’s loudly protested repricing of DVD and streaming services, announced in July. In an email and blog post published Sunday night, Netflix co-founder and CEO Reed Hastings issued an apology to customers (or “members,” in Netflix-speak):
I see that given the huge changes we have been recently making, I should have personally given a full justification to our members of why we are separating DVD and streaming, and charging for both. It wouldn’t have changed the price increase, but it would have been the right thing to do.
His explanation of the new name? Terse, to put it generously:
We chose the name Qwikster because it refers to quick delivery. We will keep the name “Netflix” for streaming.
The outcry was immediate and abundant. Mashable speculated whether Qwikster was “the worst product launch since New Coke.” Last time I checked, there were more than 17,000 comments on Hastings’s post. One of the more temperate ones came from Benjamin Hutchins:
The name itself, to me, shows a lack of thought. You say it was to represent the quickness of the service, but to me that was a bad attempt at trying to find an available.com domain when there are so few good ones left. I bet there were lengthy discussions over a good name, probably taking weeks, and yet to me, it truly sounds like a half-witted idea cocked up from someone in front of an investor and needed to keep things rolling.
Here’s my own disclaimer: I have never been a Netflix customer/member. I rarely watch movies at home. So I’m an impartial observer here—except where the name and branding strategy are concerned.
My take on the name: so bad it’s laughable. The branding strategy: mystifying.
Crazy, right? Like a fox.
Hang on for my explanation. First, though, a little background.