Queen's Gambit on Netflix - How media impacts Online Search, Marketing, and Pop Culture!
Last week I completed yet another series on Netflix. So far, this year I've seen over a dozen TV series, almost as many new movies (or more), and I'm not even going to mention the countless re-runs of my old favorites. All of this, whilst still maintaining my daily balance of work, music, blogging etc. And if I even recall the entire last decade, I must have seen only as many TV series as I did just this year alone. This in itself is one of the biggest indicators of how stay-at-home is shifting consumer behavior, which in turn explains the stocks of Netflix rising from $300 in March 2020 to a peak of $554 in October 2020, a growth of 85% in just 7 odd months, and Roku being another case in point which rose from $63 in March to $306 as of today, an astounding growth of 400%. When was the last time you experienced returns of such mammoth proportions within 6-8 months?
While I was going too far away from my point above, it was yet another case of shifting consumer behavior and its subsequent impact. Just like Netflix's latest mini-series - The Queen's Gambit (named after a popular chess opening sequence). The series premiered just about 6 weeks back on 23rd October, 2020, and featured the story of an orphan girl who turns out to be a chess prodigy. It's an incredible tale of a girl who is prone to drug addiction (medical pills), a habit that she unfortunately develops as a result of her stay at the orphanage, and develops an unbelievable knack for chess. The story follows her journey as she grows into a US champion, and subsequently the world champion.
The series was interesting on many counts.
Female protagonist and supporting acts
First and foremost, diverting from the stereotypical norm of writing a story on a male character, Netflix played it well by representing a women-centric story. Some of the most important characters in the series are women - lead character Elizabeth Harmon, the lady who adopts her called Alma Wheatley, and her childhood friend at the orphanage Jolene who suddenly re-emerges at a critical juncture in the story.
A not-so-interesting game turned into a thriller
For enthusiasts, chess is certainly the best of games. However, it is not something that appeals to as many people as say soccer, cricket, basketball etc. It doesn't have that huge a following, and is typically considered a slow game. So to make a series on the game was a huge risk in itself, but one that paid off thanks to the writers, director, and producers. The direction of scenes involving the games was extremely well done to the point where even a layman can identify when a genius moment it taking place.
But here's the main thing...
The thing that I really want to bring out through this blog is the intersectionality of media, culture, and sports. Queen's Gambit is an ode to how media can impact popular culture, modify behavior, and revive things that the public had lost interest in.
Record searches for "How to play chess"
Do you see the graph above with a huge spike towards the end? It's past 5 year's Google Trends data for the search query "How to play chess". October end / November was the highest it has ever been in the last 5 years.
It's not only Google that has seen a surge in search queries around Chess.
- eBay reported a 215% increase in queries for Chess sets
- Chess.com reported a 4X increase in the number of registrations, with more females joining than ever before (The protagonist of the show is a female, called Elizabeth Harmon)
- Levy Rozman, a chess grandmaster who now also makes YouTube tutorials online said that his viewership for the "Queen's Gambit" (a famous chess opening move) video went viral right after the show aired. From 70,000 daily views, he now enjoys 500,000+ daily views.
- Levy Rozman also reported a shift in his viewership demographics from 2% females up to 3.6% females!
Do you see the impact that a piece of media can have on marketing, and the society at large? I remember when Mohra had released, the double-glasses worn by Paresh Rawal and Akshay Kumar in 'Tu Cheez Badi Hai' had become a rage. Similarly, Madhuri's purple-ish saree from Hum Aapke Hain Koun? However, those are things that I just know from memory - I don't have any sales data to substantiate the above 2 examples. But thanks to the world we are living in today, we do have data for the impact of The Queen's Gambit. And this is just the start, for so many people are yet to watch the series. I am sure Ebay and Chess.com might experience much more traffic in the weeks to come. Even personally speaking, I've downloaded the chess.com app and I play at least a couple of games daily.
Here's to media, culture, and society!