What has Netflix's BEEF got to do with Branding?
Well, the dark comedy is not just about life lessons. Spoilers ahead. The Netflix series got everyone talking and this is not by chance, nor the refreshing topic of rage in itself is sufficient to pull this off. Embedded in BEEF are branding principles and strategies.
It all started with a road rage incident, before spiralling into darkness. Consumed by petty revenge (or rather, life), Danny and Amy – the protagonists – are fuelled with rage, directing their pent-up anger towards the villain they made each other out to be.
Danny’s attempt to call out Amy in public landed him in trouble
This is a relatable concept. In branding, a single positive experience or attribute can create and reinforce further positive associations with a brand. At a brand level, celebrity endorsements, social proof (such as reviews and testimonials), star product or user experience can set off such a domino effect.
Even so for BEEF. As an A24 production, the series enjoys a head start, following the success of Minari and Everything Everywhere All at Once.
Finally, a show that sheds light on the diversity of what is often perceived as a single community – Asian Americans. The main leads are worlds apart. He’s poor, single and struggling. She’s rich, married and successful. Yet, despite the disparity in their social classes, Danny and Amy share the same brokenness that connected them on a deeper level. A connection that is ironically absent in the relationships with their loved ones.
In branding and marketing, target audience used to be defined by traditional parameters: age group, gender, race etc. Gladly, gone are those days. Instead, profiling requires marketers to think deeper, looking at behavioural variables such as interest, life stages etc. This approach is crucial in creating messaging that truly resonates with consumers.
In today’s climate, brands ought to also start switching up to ESG-centric strategies, frameworks and narratives, answering the calls for diversity and inclusivity.
As an invited speaker at the Forster Conference in Las Vegas, Amy shared her experiences and challenges as a working mum. “Despite what everybody tells you, you can have it all.” The outside world sees Amy as a successful career woman, and this was the side that the crumbling Amy painstakingly tried to upkeep. In a later episode, we caught a glimpse of the vulnerable side of yet another seemingly successful woman, Naomi. Wrapped in her insecurities and inside a Louis Vuitton garment travel bag, she watched Amy’s inspirational/hypocritical talk with spite.
Naomi left a comment “You are such an inspiration” on Amy’s IG while muttering to herself “Stuck up bitch”.
While it was a case of protecting personal branding for Amy, the same principle applies to brands. Also, the prevalence of greenwashing, influencer marketing, and the like has led to the emergence of more authentic content such as UGC (user-generated content) and, more recently, de-influencing. All these show that we are embracing authentic branding.
Eventually, Amy came clean to George and Jordan Forster, her business investor, about her affair and misdeeds.
After escaping the brink of death, Danny and Amy reconciled. We see a grieving Amy climb into Danny’s hospital bed to embrace him. Danny slowly comes to and begins moving his arm in what appears to be hugging Amy. The ending was intentionally kept simple and clear of dialogue, cutting before viewers can reach a conclusion. In an interview, Lee shared that “they left the final scene “very open” intentionally so viewers can make their own interpretation.”
As Amy’s prickly mother-in-law, Fumi would say, “All you have is perception. You can create the truth you want to inhibit.” Having that openness allows us to engage and be part of this process/story. It creates and sustains interest in the audience. For instance, polls, DIY, and product personalisation are some ways brands can give power to the people. In another Netflix Series, Black Mirror, viewers could choose their own adventure, deciding how the plot moves on. Another prime example is Coca-Cola’s “Share a Coke” campaign, which invited consumers to personalise the iconic product packaging with their names, allowing them to form an emotional connection with the brand.
How Netflix’s BEEF Sizzles with Authentic Branding
Amid the gripping plot and engaging characters, Netflix’s BEEF also offers insights into the world of branding and marketing. In addressing today’s topics (i.e., diversity and authenticity), the series engages and resonates with viewers on a deeper level. As brands continue to evolve and adapt to changing consumer behaviour, BEEF serves as a reminder of the importance of staying true to the core values and meaningful connections.