Challenger to Watch 2017: iflix

Future-proof global brand building.


Ding dong globalisation is dead. Ok, it’s not dead exactly, but in need of a rethink. For the last couple of centuries the assumption of global trade has been that consistency is king. Companies create a great product, they ship that around the world, and it’s the same experience whether you’re in Melbourne or Mumbai. But in this hyper-connected world, 'local' has become scarce, and as a result, people have grown protective of local identity and culture. Brexit? Trump? ...I'm going broad here, but both political earthquakes were in part, a rejection of a one-world, no-borders assumption first made possible by free global trade.

The same revolt against this hegemony shows signs in business and marketing. Whilst Unilever scratch their heads wondering how they stop the meteoric rise of Patanjali in India, they should think: Will people prefer a faceless multinational now they have their own local dude to champion? For the Indian market, it's a no-brainer. Progressive global brands will adapt to this attitude shift - big global ambitions will have to be matched with an equal investment into creating genuine local relevance in markets. I don’t mean tweaking communications for local preferences, I’m talking about global brands co-creating the product, service and offer with regional partners.

Iflix, are a global video-on-demand service with a focus on emerging markets. With brilliant basics including a low-cost subscription (the same cost as a pirated DVD), access to 16,000 hours of content and the ability to download and watch offline, their game-changing, most challenger credentials, come in the form of their smart localized expansion strategies, of which there are five:

  • Partnerships with regional TV and film producers to create original and market-specific local content.
  • Collaborations with local influencers and ambassadors in each market, such as Malaysian actress and singer Maya Karin. Offering a playlist feature whereby subscribers can see and understand what their regional influencers are watching.
  • A highly personable customer service based team, speaking 9 languages, responding to every query, complaint or social mention in under 4 hours.
  • Integration of the subscription as part of bundles with existing regional telecoms providers (meaning no credit cards are needed).
  • Careful customisation. From Bollywood to anime, iflix carefully curates, censors and subtitles all content out of respect for local legislation, customs, cultures and preferences.

“Governments around the world are trying to find a balance between the global community and local culture", co-founder and CEO Mark Britt told The Business Year,  "As part of the equation, we need to continue to navigate that evolution and contribute to that discussion.” This is someone who really gets it, as opposed to the hundreds of marketers and CEOs who will spend the next few years tweaking indifference.

The ambition is to redefine television for a billion people, with a target to reach that number by 2020. Launching as a two-man team out of an office in Malaysia in 2014, in under three years they have mushroomed to 600 people working across twenty offices globally. They've now reached four million subscribers worldwide and can count Disney, MGM and Paramount amongst content partners, and Sky PLC amongst its investors. Other streaming services watch out. This is the future of global brand building.

This must be the first piece on iflix to not mention the 'N' word.

By that I mean Netflix.

Ah balls.