The Real Impact of Netflix

In order to read this and have a true cathartic and life-changing experience, you must first be honest by answering these three questions:

Did you watch all seasons of Breaking Bad in less than two weeks?

Did you ever tell your significant other that you were working or working out when really you ate a bag of chips and watched The Expendables or The Devil Wears Prada (and you hid the empty bag at the bottom of the garbage)?

Did you ever watch ahead of your partner in the series Nashville or Veronica Mars but then pretended it was all new when you watched it together?

It has only been seven years since Netflix began to alter society. Now they have over 50 million subscribers in over 40 countries. Netflix and other streaming services have broken traditional business models, democratized content, and empowered consumers. It has also changed our watching habits.

93 minutes: average time watched by a Netflix subscriber per day

1 billion: number of hours per month all subscribers watch Netflix

61%: percentage of subscribers who admit to binge watching

80%: television shows account for largest percentage of all watching

88%: percentage of subscribers who watch three or more episodes of a TV show in a single day

If you answered yes to any or all of the questions at the start of this article, you are not alone. Netflix’s influence and impact is amazing and has been well covered. Sociologists have explored the sense of entitlement that results when we getnetflix-movies-expiring-jan-2014 what we want when we want it. The business press has trumpeted the bundle business model that underlines Netflix’s success.

Addiction specialists have explored binge watching relating it to drinking and taking drugs, “It’s like you’re punch drunk, and saying ‘come on feed me another one,” says Greg Dillon, professor of psychiatry at Weill Cornell Medical College. Netflix has made binging easy now. Television shows play automatically one after another. I know of several people who have watched all of Orange is the New Black in one day.

This leads to the two impacts no one has yet talked about. First up is normalization. These new (seemingly excessive) watching habits were not bragged about just a short time ago. Personally, I never came clean to anyone that I watched all seasons of Community, The Unit and Family Guy while traveling for business. Or that I have watched the movies The Rock, Predators, and Olympus Has Fallen way more than once. Read more

You are Invited to a Meeting on the Effectiveness of Meetings

A client of mine, a Chief Marketing Officer at a consumer products company, recently shared an astonishing figure. His month of November was booked with over 120 hours of meetings by October 20th. He flashed me his Outlook calendar for the month and it was filled with bright lines and boxes. This should not be surprising given 11 million formal meetings take place each day in the United States. That is more than four billion a year according to a University of Arizona study.

Weirdly, stupidly, and hopefully not irreversibly, meetings are now synonymous with real work. So many meetings are now held that employees complain they get their work done after business hours and also lie and block their calendars to avoid the mass of invitations.

“Meetings are the most universal — and universally despised — part of business life.” Fast Company Magazine

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Not So Brand New: 4 Marketing Tactics from History

I have had great fun writing a book called Needs & Wants: A Popular History of Marketing. It is in the hands of my agent and if all goes well will soon be in your hands when we find a willing publisher. The research was fascinating and I discovered that marketing could give prostitution a run for its money as the world’s oldest profession. Here are a few tidbits that go back in time and are entertaining and informative.

AAAAA Towing

Good thing this is a bit of history piece as I will date myself by referencing the 1986 movie Ferris Bueller’s Day Off. In the story the characters end up at the A1-EZ OK Parking Garage. Even back then, before my career in marketing, I laughed at the cheesy name. The “A1” bit is worth exploring. Of course, there is the famous A1 Steak Sauce with A1 suggesting it was “the best”. However, I suspect the fictional garage chose A1 to also claim good real estate in the paper version of Google.

For decades the Yellow Pages provided consumers with the information on where to find what. It became a well-known tactic for businesses to pick a name that would put them at the front of the listings in their category. This started as early as the 1890’s. That is why there were (and surprisingly still are) so many AAA or AAAA or AAAAA garages and towing companies. I did a test on Google and found a few businesses that used eight A’s like AAAAAAAA Towing (located in New York). This remains a popular tactic for storage businesses to this day.1934-elinor-smith-200

Finger-Lickin’ Good!

Slogans, straplines and taglines have been around so long and are used so frequently that we have forgotten their long lineage. “Good to the Last Drop”, “Breakfast of Champions” and “King of Beverages” all go back nearly one hundred years helping promote and sell Maxwell House, Wheaties and Dr. Pepper. Ivory Soap’s “99 & 44/100% Pure” and Morton’s Salt “When it Rains, It Pours” go back even further.

Short attention spans have long been an issue in marketing. The slogan is a tactic used to be memorable, smart and entertaining. Some historians argue they got their start in politics pointing to Karl Marx’s “Workers of the world, unite!” and “Tippecanoe and Tyler, Too” from the 1840 U.S. Presidential campaign. Slogans are actually memes, a much desired force in modern marketing, and can also be melodies and catch-phrases.

Mr. Clean, Mr. Clean

It is unclear if Barry Manilow knew his Band-Aid jingle would become so memorable and an undeniable bit of pop culture. “I am stuck on Band-Aid brand ’cause Band-Aid’s stuck on me!” was known by parents and children alike. I love the second line that actually mentions brand, “I am stuck on Band-Aid brand ’cause germs don’t stick on me!”

The jingle goes all the way back to medieval times with minstrels first penning and singing odes to the bravery and prowess of knights. They soon applied their skills to products at fairs and markets. The introduction of the radio accelerated and broadened the use of jingles in the early 20th Century. The Oscar Mayer wiener song, 2657036188_1c796f0eceKitKat’s “Gimme a Break”, and Wrigley’s Doublemint gum “Double Your Pleasure” all possess amazing recall and generate fond nostalgia. The one that sticks with me is the Mr. Clean jingle. It actually debuted in 1958 and is the longest-running product tune on television.

Coke Versus Pepsi

The cola wars made famous the blind taste test but the tactic goes back to ancient times. For centuries merchants have been providing samples and when they wanted to overcome all objections resoundingly they would pit their product against competitors. This took place in Greek markets for wine and oils, America’s old west between competing elixirs, and most visibly in 1975 when Pepsi first challenged Coke cementing the longstanding rivalry.

Single, double and triple blind experiments are now used in consumer behavior studies to help launch and promote brands. These go beyond the blind and include studies like putting an inferior peanut butter in the jar of well-known brand and the well-known brand in a plain jar. Researchers then ask participants in the study to try both and identify which is better. The brand is so powerful that overwhelmingly people pick the branded jar with the inferior product.

If you take the time to investigate marketing’s history as I have you will discover that there is very little new in the practice. Smart marketers need to draw on history and continually make relevant the valuable lessons the past provides.