Why Brands Need to Take a Netflix Approach to Content

To stand out and grow in today’s world, brands need to approach their audience more like Netflix, and less like broadcast TV.

Once upon a time, people used to watch this thing called broadcast TV. It was a crazy concept: everyone would watch the same thing at the same time. Everything was mainstream, designed to generally appeal to everyone, but not ideally suited to any specific person’s tastes.

We’ve moved beyond that now. If you want to watch Friends today, you don’t have to wait until Thursday evening at 8 p.m. (7 central). You can watch any episode you want, at any time. And if you don’t want to watch Friends, you have other options: namely, everything ever put on any form of video, ever. People today are used to choosing the content they want, and have no real reason to put up with a mass-market approach that isn’t tailored to them.

The Landscape Has Changed

 This new Netflix model of creating and consuming content also applies to brands. The old one-size-fits-all approach does not fit all. More importantly, it doesn’t really fit anyone perfectly. And in a world of endless choices, you’re not going to get very far by just kind of appealing to people a little bit.

Different Values

For example, different audiences value different aspects of your product or service. To a 22-year-old, a new iPhone may represent innovation and prestige. It’s a chance to own the latest and greatest shiny new object. For a 55-year-old, that same iPhone might mean convenience and accessibility. It’s not about being cool, but about being able to FaceTime with their young granddaughter. A message designed for one audience wouldn’t appeal to the other, and a generic message aimed at both would get ignored or skipped over by both.

Different Consumption Values

The way that people consume content has changed, as illustrated by the trend away from network TV (including cable channels) and towards on-demand services like Netflix. Networks still offer a chronological lineup of shows, broadcast nationally and blandly blanketed across all demographics. Even with niche channels, you still have to buy the larger package in order to see the specialized channel you want, and you’re still limited by their schedule.  

Netflix puts the consumer in charge. Their shows are not time-bound or channel-bound, so the customer can pick and choose as they please. And from a business perspective, because the platform is dynamic and discoverable, Netflix can present new shows and depth of interests without spending (and charging) additional dollars for content expansion.

Different Expectations

We all now expect things to be delivered instantly (Postmates), on-time (FedEx), and in a frictionless, uninterrupted manner (Amazon). With a network TV approach, you have to wait for your show to run in its time slot; you can’t binge or go through a series quickly, much less skip episodes; and you have to suffer through commercials disruptive to the experience. None of that exists in Netflix. It’s on your own time, at your own pace, and there are few interruptions.

Current Marketing Methods Are Out-Of-Date

Consumers are still consuming, but they now go about it in a different way. If your advertising and brand messaging are being planned and distributed like network TV, you’re not keeping up with your consumers. In fact, you may be turning them off to your brand.

Current Methods Are No Longer Working

The “fill-my-feed” strategy of distributing content only on your organic Facebook feed and blog is both wasteful (in time and resources spent creating the content) and ineffective (less than 1% of your followers will ever see that post, much less people who don’t “like” your page at all).

Additionally, the aggregate result of your Facebook, Instagram, or other social feed is like network TV: blanketed across all of your target demographics, and unpersonalized to your customer’s unique user experience.

Current Metrics Are No Longer Relevant

In network TV advertising, the key measurement was always the number of impressions. But if a message is seen by a million people, and due to its generic, non-targeted nature doesn’t really connect with any of them, how much are all those eyeballs worth? Similarly, online metrics such as the number of followers or likes don’t necessarily mean anything if those people aren’t actually seeing your content, or are seeing it but never taking action.

 Current Spend Is Not As Effective As It Once Was

Of course, ad money spent chasing after the wrong people, with the wrong message, in order to reach the wrong goals, is not going to be money well-spent. And that low ROI puts your company at a competitive disadvantage.

Applying the Netflix Approach

To solve these issues, brands need to start approaching customers the way that Netflix approaches its viewers.

Personalization

Comedy? Horror? Girl power movies? Reality TV shows about food?

Nobody is going to like all the content on Netflix. In fact, you may not be interested in 99% of the shows and movies they offer. But you’re going to love that other 1%. And with the way Netflix works, you never have to watch something that you’re not interested in.

Your brand should likewise strive to provide potential customers with only the content that they would be interested in, with messaging that speaks to their pain points and personality. Unlike Netflix, your company probably can’t be all things to all people, but you can target your different audiences with the content that matters most to them.

Dynamic vs. Linear Distribution

With Netflix, the viewer is not forced to watch whatever episode comes out this week. If they are new to a show, they can go back and start at the beginning, with the pilot episode; if they are familiar with it, they can skip to a later season or re-watch their favorites. Either way, they get exactly what they want, or need, to move forward in their relationship with the show.

Marketers need to do something similar with their content. You should match your content to where each user is in the customer lifecycle. For example, you don’t ask for the sale before they even know who you are. You need a series of content pieces that drive people through the stages of awareness, consideration, conversion, loyalty, and advocacy. Through remarketing ads or email drip campaigns, you can track which users have viewed or engaged with a particular piece of content, and present them with material that drives them to the next stage.

Dashboard vs. Depth

Don’t overwhelm people with all of the content at first. Let them drive their own experience. Study them, curate what they really want to know about you, give them recommendations, and present opportunities to explore more, if that’s what they choose to do. If you can provide value for them even before they buy from you, that serves as a pretty strong signal that your product or service will also be helpful in their lives.

Measure the Right Metrics

The value of impression-based metrics is nearing zero. Engagement metrics are the floor now, while consideration and conversion metrics are the most valuable (and trackable). Test different ad variations and optimize your campaigns base on the metrics that create value.

Pay to Play

Let’s be realistic. The Facebook of today isn’t a source of free exposure for brands; it’s an ad platform with social weaved in. Google exists to provide ad revenue, not free search results. Amazon is the third-largest online ad platform, and is growing at over 100% per year.

This is an opportunity, not a threat, because it gives you the capability to target the specific people with specific messaging at specific times. And because it is all fully trackable, you can use it to test hypotheses in small batches before rolling out a campaign to a larger audience.

By taking advantage of the tools and capabilities of the digital landscape, we can do a better job of marketing to people while at the same time helping our customers more than ever before. So stop spamming people, or throwing stuff on the wall and seeing if it sticks. With a personalized, customer-focused Netflix approach, you’ll not only get more customers, but have happier customers that keep coming back.

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