Companies, like people, often experience FOMO—they want to be the opposite of what they are, and sometimes with good reason. One of the most interesting but under-the-radar inversions is between creators (brands or creatives) and distributors (department stores or media platforms). Companies on each side are starting to wish that they were in the other’s shoes, and they are increasingly taking moves to make this switch a reality.

Netflix, for example, started selling third-party content, which it bought from entertainment producers and studios. Like movie theaters, TV networks, and the Blockbusters of the world, Netflix aggregated an audience and became a watering hole for TV- and movie-watchers, connecting viewers to the studios that created entertainment.

While this worked for a time, Netflix was paying an immense amount of money for content from other companies, which still had territorial limits from the traditional distribution model. This contradicted Netflix’s global ambitions and imposed barriers on Netflix’s goal to make the same content available all around the world—a nightmare for content with territorial rights. Since the company’s goal is to maximize engagement, which justifies paying the subscription fee each month, the company was holding itself back by only being the distributor of third-party work.   

In 2012, Netflix decided to dip its toes into original programming, producing its first original TV show, “Lilyhammer” as an experiment. This soon billowed out into more originals like “House of Cards,” “13 Reasons Why” and “Stranger Things.” By 2016, the company set a goal to more than double its original content in the next few years, making it 50% of its offering. Since then, Netflix has released new original content every week—something for every type of subscriber—in addition to its licensing, co-producing and acquiring content. This year, it expects to spend more than $12 billion on original content as it continues along this path. As Disney revs up its own direct-to-consumer offering, which will cause it to pull all of its media from Netflix and other sources, Netflix’s ability to fill the platform with its own content will only be more critical.

With its steadily growing focus on production, Netflix has morphed from a pure retailer into its own brand. But markedly, because Netflix started out as a retailer, it had both the infrastructure, the data and the audience in place to successfully diversify into creating its own content.

The retail world is experiencing similar evolutions. Macy’s is the quintessential department store, known for selling an endless number of products from thousands of brands for over 150 years. But once the internet and ecommerce came around, the company realized that it had only a small chance to compete by offering the same products shoppers could find in many other places. Facing this reality, Macy’s announced in late 2017 that it plans to grow private labels brands into 40% of its merchandise.

Private label brands, which currently comprise 29% of the retailer’s business, are exclusively sold at Macy’s, but still sit within its target customer’s price point and likely grow out of customer insights the company collects from its retailing business or fill a niche that wasn’t previously offered. They’re not only more profitable and bring higher margins, but also give Macy’s something to feature in its marketing, front and center, that it can build on for years to come. Its private label brand selection has grown to 15, including the home goods brand Hotel Collection and the activewear brand Ideology. This is a growing trend for department stores that are trying to differentiate their assortment—Target and many others are following a similar path.

The big question is how far these companies will transform beyond their original position in the market. Will any of these companies ever achieve majority private label goods in their assortment? Netflix seems like it will be the first to hit this threshold, and will possibly aim for an even higher percentage of original content in the future—perhaps 80-90%. Might Macy’s make it to 50-60% private label in the next decade? These developments will be interesting to watch as companies challenge the roles they have played for decades—or even centuries.