Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Three Branding Lessons from Binge Watching

Recently, I had some time to catch up on what, for me, was a new TV show. Since I’ve seen every LAW AND ORDER marathon, this chunk of time was dedicated to watching the first three seasons of HOMELAND. With talented actors and a plot filled with twists and turns, I was immediately drawn into the action. Afterward, this experience left me pondering the impact of binge watching on branding, brand experiences, and customer experience marketing.


According to the BBC, "Collins English Dictionary has chosen binge-watch as its 2015 Word of the Year. Meaning to watch a large number of television programs (especially all the shows from one series) in succession, it reflects a marked change in viewing habits, due to subscription services like Netflix. Lexicographers noticed that its usage was up 200% on 2014. Helen Newstead, Head of Language Content at Collins, said, ‘The rise in usage of binge-watch is clearly linked to the biggest sea change in our viewing habits since the advent of the video recorder nearly 40 years ago. It's not uncommon for viewers to binge-watch a whole season of programs such as House of Cards or Breaking Bad in just a couple of evenings - something that, in the past, would have taken months - then discuss their binge-watching on social media.’"

Here are three branding lessons any brand can learn from binge watching:

If a TV series has an unexpected plot twist, viewers may get so upset that they stop watching the series completely. This not only impacts ratings and ad dollars, but it also damages the TV show’s brand equity. I won’t include any spoilers here, but suffice it say, the end of series three of HOMELAND featured an unexpected surprise. Some fans may have wondered if the series would be the same in series four and beyond, and some may have stopped watching. In January 2017, series six begins if you’d like to see how the series has evolved.

Before you make any change to your brand, whether it’s a logo change (recall The Gap and Instagram) or a change in the product’s taste (recall New Coke), it’s critical to consider both positive and negative “what if” scenarios. And, if the negative scenarios could result in going out of business (or in the case of a TV show, getting cancelled), by all means, don’t make the change.

On the other side of the coin, think back to the TV show DALLAS and the third season finale, its “Who Shot JR?” episode, that aired in March 1980. That episode’s mystery lasted throughout the summer of 1980, and the shooter was not revealed until the following season’s fourth episode in November 1980. Everyone had an opinion about JR’s shooter. And, actor Larry Hagman as JR Ewing even turned up on the cover of TIME magazine in August 1980.

In the event that your plot twist or brand change becomes big news, make sure that you have the bandwidth to be inclusive. One major reason that this show’s mystery was such a success was that there were so many possible shooters. Everyone had an opinion and could participate in the discussion.

Back to binge watching, what drew me to the particular show? The plot? The actors? A large chunk of available time? I chose to watch HOMELAND for all of those reasons, but there could have been others.

Understand that your viewers, fans, or new customers can encounter your brand with no previous knowledge about your competitive advantage. With that in mind, provide some basic information about your brand at the outset as a form of introduction.

Have you ever binge watched? What TV show? Please chime in.

If you’d like to read about all seasons of HOMELAND, check out the recaps here:

Oh, and does anyone know where I can get the first and second seasons of the Canadian police drama MOTIVE? Currently, each episode can be purchased separately on Amazon, which is not a user-friendly option.

Image Credits: Exstreamist and Time Magazine

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