Personalisation according to Netflix

August 4, 2020
Sandro Meyer
Growth Marketing

If you are a marketer, you have probably either worked with existing personas and "ideal customer profiles", or created them yourself. These personas are often based on psychographics like lifestyle choices, spending habits, values etc.

But Ana Andjelic, PhD and CMO at Mansur Gavriel argues:

Inferring about psychographics based on the products people buy is unreliable. People buy the same things for wildly different reasons: There’s a discount; they are struck by a certain mood at a specific time; they know other people who already have them.

Equally problematic is how often personas focus on the individual, because it ignores the fact that people are social creatures. Real people belong to communities and are part of influence networks that they use to decide what to watch, read, buy, and pay attention to.

So one must wonder, what are companies like Netflix and Spotify doing differently then, to offer us such sophisticated, deeply personal and customized experiences? Because we are all using the same product, but we still feel like its "ours":

"My Spotify weekly playlist is better than yours."

So surely there is more than meets the eye?

Netflix Taste Communities

So Ana argues that "...instead of focusing on individuals, we should focus on their relationships and look at the communities they belong to".

How does Netflix do that?

Netflix’s taste communities. The streaming platform’s 125 million global viewers are divided into 2,000 “taste clusters” that group people based on their movie and TV show preferences. At the same time, Netflix content is extensively tagged and, based on these tags and their connections, divided into micro-genres. Micro-communities and micro-genres are then matched up.

- Example of a book genres cluster visualization

This gives us a dynamic portrait of individual people, whom they are influenced by and what relationships and activities are important to them.

Ana continues:

When we shift our focus from an individual to their network of relationships, we start asking different questions: How are the communities an individual belongs to structured? What are their dynamics? How does influence spread within them? Who are the most active and/or valuable members? This shift reveals not our inferred taste, but our actual taste.

And then she makes the most important point in the whole article:

Personas reveal the fact that consumers are receptive to persistent and repeated messaging, price deals, and social influence. But they also dangerously focus attention on the least valuable customer: the one who’s price sensitive and trend susceptible and least likely to be brand loyal.

How can you apply this?

  1. Think about your brand in plural - Your Netflix is not my Netflix. When you apply tagging systems and shopping data, remind yourself that each product reflects differently in the individual user.
  2. Grow through the niches - Think about taste clusters and niches in your industry. Your goal is to go away from generic, one-size-fits-all and into establishing micro-communities. Just like "Steamy Romantic Movies" (see header picture of this article) is probably one of the micro clusters Netflix identified, your product too appeals to a variety of micro-communities.
  3. There are many doors in - Netflix doesn't only personalize your movie genres, but you also see different trailer-images than your friends and apparently even see categories at different times then your buddies. So how can you too not only customize your product, but also your packaging, email communication, or online ads according to the taste clusters your have identified?
  4. Target communities, not individuals - We are all part of communities of people with similar interests. What existing communities do your best customers belong to? How could you appeal to that specific community specifically?

Who wrote this essay?
Nice to meet you! We are Growth Bay, a growth marketing agency based in Zurich, Switzerland.
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