How ‘Squid Game’ reveals the flaw in Netflix’s products strategy

After years of hints that Netflix was planning to department out into merchandise in a full-fledged manner, making itself a tad extra Disney-esque and discovering new methods to capitalize on common reveals like Stranger Issues, the streamer lastly introduced this week that it’s making the leap. By means of a partnership with Walmart, Netflix has arrange the Netflix Hub, a web-based storefront on Walmart’s web site, the place followers can purchase something from a Stranger Issues cassette participant to an Ada Twist, Scientist On-the-Go Lab Set to a Cobra Kai headband.

However notably lacking from the lineup is something from Squid Game, which is presently the hottest non-English present ever to hit the platform, and which is on its solution to being the hottest present, interval, in response to Netflix coCEO Ted Sarandos. The Korean present—a dystopian sequence a few group of individuals clad in candy-colored monitor fits who participate in a sequence of lethal kids’s video games—has spawned nonstop headlines, TikTok memes, and Halloween costumes. Certainly, with its colourful garb and easy, stylized aesthetics, the present is visually arresting and, by extension, extremely merch-friendly. 

[Screenshot: Walmart]

In different phrases, it might be excellent for the Netflix Hub. Its absence, presumably, has to do with the incontrovertible fact that the present has popped so lately, and so abruptly. (The Netflix Hub web site guarantees that T-shirts are “coming quickly!”)

However followers’ fascination with the present and its precise products, versus these dreamt up by Netflix, level to a gap in Netflix’s retail plan: Followers need the actual factor, not the faux factor. Certainly, whereas Walmart and Netflix are ready to replenish on T-shirts with Squid Recreation memes, the ultra-white Vans that characters put on in the present are promoting like hotcakes. 


Since Squid Recreation launched, Google Tendencies search information has reportedly proven that searches of the skater slip-ons have elevated by 7,800%. In the meantime, searches for retro tracksuits has almost doubled on Lyst, the buying platform, in response to the New York Times. Demand has additionally grown for yellow T-shirts, orange attire, and knee-high socks—the uniform of a creepy doll in the present. Seemingly in a single day, Amazon has birthed its personal Squid Recreation financial system, with dozens of products obtainable on the market, together with black masks, jade monitor fits, and plushies. 

Netflix is making some cash off Squid Recreation swag. On Netflix’s on-line shop (separate from the Netflix Hub), there’s a restricted assortment of T-shirts and hoodies associated to the present, however they really feel extra like the form of T-shirts bought after a U2 live performance—perfunctory nods to the precise performers/efficiency, normally on low-cost cloth. Netflix has not revealed what number of have really bought, however the shirts are presumably not about to trigger Netflix’s web site to crash. 

The strategy towards client items is a part of Netflix’s total push to diversify its income, as subscription development has slowed after its surge of signups at the starting of the pandemic, and as competitors from the likes of Disney Plus, HBO Max, and Apple TV Plus has heated up. For products bought on the Netflix Hub, Netflix licenses its mental property to producers and in addition will get a share of the producers’ gross sales to retailers. Products are additionally a pathway to extra subscribers.

As Josh Simon, Netflix’s vp of client products put it, “We need to proceed to fulfill followers wherever they’re, whether or not that’s by means of our largest on-line market at Walmart, or the extra boutique and curated” 

However based mostly on the response to Squid Recreation, Netflix may need to rethink its thought of what followers actually need.