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Inbound Marketing Blog

    Netflix's #HouseOfCards: Irrefutable Proof Customer Data Collection Works

    Posted by Jennifer Kardell

    The Future of Personalized Marketing is Here


    If you weren’t sharing a candlelit dinner with your darling on Valentine’s Day, chances are you were devouring every episode of House of Cards Season Two on Netflix. The buzz around this show has been tremendous—and why wouldn’t it be with genius Kevin Spacey in the lead role? Beyond even the magic of Kevin Spacey, Netflix has managed to do something no network has ever done before, and we’re not talking about the simultaneous release of all episodes at once. We’re talking about data collection, and using that information to please the people.

    How Information Put Netflix On Top

    Netflix has never made a secret of their information collection. When users log in, they immediately see a list of the shows and movies they’ve watched since joining the service. This information is then used to suggest other programs and films according to an algorithm that takes various information into account. For instance: Do you like happy endings? Do you prefer cerebral movies? Do you avoid action and adventure flicks in favor of independent comedies? All of this information helps Netflix create a profile for each user, something we might call a “buyer persona.” And that profile takes into account the various psychographic dimensions of the buyer so that targeted choices can be presented.

    Sounds a lot like inbound marketing, right?

    Why House of Cards Works

    By their own admission, Netflix used the information they gathered from users’ movie and television show choices to create the series, House of Cards. Netflix spokesperson Joris Evers said, “…it was a calculated bet because we knew Netflix members like political dramas, that they like serialized dramas. That they are fans of Kevin Spacey, that they like David Fincher."

    Obviously, fans of the show don’t care how Netflix knew to create this series; they’re only glad Netflix did.

    What This Means for Marketing

    House of Cards watchers may not realize the impact their choices have on marketing as a whole. The bigger picture, of course, is that a majority of consumers welcome the gathering of information in exchange for more relevant and enjoyable experiences. In fact, 59% think companies that collect data make finding more interesting products easier. Beyond that, 74% get frustrated when they’re presented with ads and offers that have nothing to do with their interests. These numbers, coupled with the immense success of Netflix’s political drama, show exactly which way the wind is blowing.

    How Much Is Too Much?

    Obviously, Netflix users don’t have any issues with the company keeping an eye on the shows they watch. Otherwise, they’d cancel the subscription and go back to basic cable. Still, you could cross a line if you’re not careful and end up making your most valued customers feel uncomfortable.

    First, be sure your customers are aware you’re watching their buying habits, because 83% of Americans get a little freaked out when you don’t tell them. In fact, 30% even find it creepy when your site greets them by name, though we’re actually fans of personalization to that extent. The key is, however, to know how much your customers not only put up with, but actually welcome, before you cross the line into stalker territory.

    Perhaps you might learn one more lesson from Netflix. Rather than freaking your customers out by showing off how much you know about them, put that information to good use providing more interesting products and more targeted product suggestions. We’re certain they’d rather see their data used in the creation of products or services they’ll love than in a series of emails greeting them by name.

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    Topics: Inbound Marketing