Netflix personalisation
Twin Design /

Success in content marketing is all about hooking your audience and keeping them engaged. And if anyone knows a thing or two about keeping an audience hooked, it’s surely the organisation that’s been turning eyes square and probably contributing to the nation’s rising obesity problem since 1997 – the mighty Netflix.

But these days it’s no longer a simple matter of asking users whether they’re in the mood for a romcom or action flick in order to keep bums on seats. Whilst brands have been creating content based on audience profiles for years, the difference now is the increasingly sophisticated technology allowing for greater data collection than ever before. Nowadays, data rules the roost – those that aren’t using it to inform their content and focus on personalisation, will risk being left behind.

Not that Netflix needs to worry about that. Not with The Defenders, the newest Marvel offering, ready at hand to help the brand take their personalisation efforts to the next level.

The Netflix pitch

For anyone that’s faced the struggle of choosing a new Netflix series to get stuck into with a significant other who doesn’t always have the same tastes as you, you’ll know that it’s all too easy for your Sunday night state to descend from ‘relaxing end of the weekend chill’ to a nightmarish, Groundhog Day scene where you scroll endlessly through series blurbs that have lost all meaning; the hope gradually expiring from your bloodshot eyes as you tonelessly mutter, “How about this?” on repeat and watch Sunday night trickle through your fingers.

Well, I discovered early on that all this can be avoided if you change your approach, and it turns out that Todd Yellin, the Netflix VP of product, is reading from the same prayer book. According to a recent article I came across on Wired, Todd was pretty convinced that his wife would never be convinced to watch Marvel’s gritty superhero drama Jessica Jones unless he tricked her into it. So, he used what has fast become the signature move of Netflix and pitched the series by playing to her interests – the strong female lead and excellent reviews. It wasn’t until she was three episodes in that she caught a glimpse of the Marvel logo. But Todd had got his way – she was already hooked.

Of course, this is kind of Todd’s job. He’s up to his elbows in data trying to figure out how to work out what people like and how to make them like new shows. And that’s why he’s rubbing his hands together in glee at the avalanche of new data that’s bound to be flowing his way now that The Defenders has finally been unleashed on the public. This is, after all, a show that brings together Jessica Jones, Luke Cage, Iron Fist and Daredevil – all successful shows in their own right – into one all-singing, all-dancing package. Therefore, the audience that each of these individual main characters either brings along or leaves behind will offer Netflix a deeper insight into the behaviour of their users.

It’s all in the data

As Wired put it: ‘Instead of merely allowing [Netflix] to find out if someone who likes, say House of Cards will also like Daredevil… [the data] tells them which of the people who landed on Daredevil because of House of Cards will make the jump to The Defenders’. In short, Netflix will be able to trace the wildly different paths viewers take to reach The Defenders and analyse the common threads in the various ‘taste communities’ it identifies – i.e. those who have a penchant for the anti-heroes and moral ambiguity of Daredevil; the coming of age tales such as Iron Fist; the sharp humour and dark crime of Jessica Jones – to dish up insights that will help the brand further pinpoint what its users might want.

The data offered by The Defenders will be able to show whether viewers like Todd’s wife, who prefer a female protagonist, will still want to watch their heroine as part of an ensemble cast. It will show whether plans for future crossovers could be lucrative. But the bottom line is that the data will offer further insight into which viewers Netflix should be targeting with their shows and whether certain shows should even be getting made in the first place.

Whilst most brands won’t have The Defenders working in their data collection corner, it’s imperative to understand the importance of data and how it can help in all areas of your content strategy – from keyword research and assessing trending topics, to evaluating the performance of each piece of content after it’s been published.

For help whipping your content strategy into shape, contact M2 Bespoke.