The genius strategy behind Netflix’s Griselda, and how it won them new audiences
In 2015 they gave us Narcos, and in 2024 they gave us Griselda. Both were written/ created by the same producers Doug Miro, Carlo Bernard, and Eric Newman. These two series tell the story of two Colombian drug lords, but they have some serious differences - from casting choices to historical accuracy, they took two very different directions with the shows. Is it a sign of the times, or were these differences part of the producer's strategy? We think the latter.
Narcos is a realistic story about the rise and fall of Columbian Cocaine crime, told through the perspective of Pablo Escobar, and the American DEA agents who were after him. The show was targeted at males age 25-34, who were drawn to crime culture, and the subject of drug trafficking.
Griselda on the other hand is a greater mix of fact and fiction. It leans heavily on themes of feminism and motherhood. In a way, producers sold her as a “girl boss” rather than the cruel psychopath that she really was. We can assume then that this was an attempt made by producers to relate to and attract more women with this show.
And this strategy, although different from Narcos, has paid off. During its first week, the Griselda series scored 20.6 million views, making it the top-watched show in over 89 countries! Audiences have also rated the show almost as high as Narcos, and Griselda’s current rotten tomatoes score is 88%, and Narcos is at 89%.
Let’s dive into the strategies they used to create Griselda, and why they paid off.
They drew a lot of attention with their casting choice
Sofia Vergara was not the obvious choice to play Griselda - she is known by most for her role as Gloria in the comedy show “Modern Family”. Playing a drug lord in this Drama/ Crime Fiction was a completely different wheelhouse. Not to mention, she really doesn’t resemble the original Griselda.
But, whether or not producers meant to do this (we’re sure they did), this casting pick drew a lot of attention. This is important to note because Griselda Blanco herself isn’t as well known as Pablo Escobar. Perhaps they knew they needed a bigger actress if they were going to get as many views as Narcos had.
Narcos, on the other hand, had cast Wagner Moura, a Brazilian actor, who was not as well-known in the industry at the time. But Wagner looked much more like Pablo Escobar and had also acted in Crime/Action movies before, in his role in Elite Squad.
So, would as many of us have tuned in to watch Griselda if they didn’t cast Gloria from Modern Family? We won’t know for sure, but we’re guessing not. We’re guessing Sofia helped bring more attention to the series, and we think this was a genius strategy.
To prove it, just take a look at the online conversations around the show. There are just as many posts on X of people talking about the show itself, as there are posts talking about Sofia IN the show:
Maybe it's because audiences were shocked to see a comedy actress play a serious role. Either way, casting her might have been vital to the show's success and responsible for the buzz surrounding it. What’s also interesting to note, is that although she wasn’t the obvious choice, she was the right choice for the “Narcos” type audience. As you can see below, the Narcos audience already resonated with the “Modern Family” show, and with Sofia herself.
So if there was any doubt in casting her, producers could have validated their choice by using an audience intelligence tool to gauge audience affinity towards the actress.
Another key insight we found is that Sofia’s own audience already had an interest in “Historical Movies and Shows”. They also showed a high interest in shows like “Breaking Bad” and “Criminal Minds”, and in a way, the Griselda series combines the two. So the audiences she would attract, already had an affinity towards this type of show.
Additionally, Sofia’s audience brought over more women viewers, specifically moms who are 35 and over (not your typical audience of “Drug Lord” dramas):
Not everyone will agree on Sofia as Griselda, some people even said it was like watching “Gloria with a prosthetic nose”, but for the audiences that counted, it worked.
They attracted net new audiences, by catering the story to them
Producers chose to tell the story of Griselda in a different way than history wrote. In reality, she was known to be a cruel psychopathic killer. In the Netflix series, Griselda is portrayed as a single mom trying to make ends meet and support her kids. She’s seen as a powerful girl boss who is fighting against men who “wrong” her at every turn.
Viewers are almost made to feel sorry for her, or made to relate to the fact that “she was just doing her best as a single mom”.
The keyword here is relate, the producers made Griselda more relatable in this series and bent the truth for the sake of the story.
They also folded in themes of feminism, and “girl power” aiming (we think) to resonate with a new audience of females who might not yet have been introduced to this Crime/Action type of show before. This was a valuable addition because Sofia Vergara’s female audience shows a core interest in gender equality and women’s rights:
So, by adding this “twist” they attracted a whole net-new audience of females, and the data reflects that:
When we compare it to the audience of Narcos, you can see that this audience was predominantly male:
Interestingly, some critics say the show veers too far from the truth, but that might be the very reason this new audience likes it. The Griselda audience shows an affinity for shows like “Euphoria”, “The Crown”, and “Game of Thrones”- all are very visually appealing shows, known for “girl power” themes, or “girl underdogs”:
So it is no surprise that they are enjoying the same themes in Griselda. For that reason, we think that the producers veered off from the real story, to cater to a new audience - and it paid off.
They got creative with promotion
It’s hard to promote a show about Cocaine. No doubt whatever you put out will receive some backlash, or you’ll be forced to pause/ remove the campaign altogether. But, you’ve gotta give it a try. That’s exactly what Netflix France did when they posted a video of a Griselda-themed truck snorting up lines on the road.
This reminds us of when Netflix promoted Narcos by taping ads in club bathrooms.
Both times Netlflix’s marketing teams got creative (and inappropriate), and even if the ads had to be removed or taken down, the impression was already made, and the buzz was created.
Just look at the engagement the “Snorting Bus” got on social. Even though the ad itself was only up for two days, it had 3,763,115 impressions.
Here’s the audience behind that buzz, many of whom we predict will now tune into the show:
Griselda is a great example of producers going a different route to produce a similar type of show. Its predecessor, Narcos was closer to the real story and cast less known actors. Griselda cast a well-known actress to attract a net new audience, and they changed around the story to cater to them.
The strategies they used paid off to bring “Cocaine Crime” shows to these new audiences and although everyone might not be a fan of the “changes” they made, the ratings and viewership signal that what they did was pure genius.
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