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Marketing Lessons from the Netflix’s Micro-Genre Generator

netflixIf you’re a Netflix subscriber, you’ve seen the, sometimes strange, micro-genre listings on your homepage. Tucked in with the usual designations such as TV Mysteries, Classic Movies, and Sitcoms, are lists for Spy Action & Adventure from the 1930s, Cult Evil Kid Horror Movies, and Sentimental set in Europe Dramas from the 1970s.

This week, I have “Goofy TV Comedies from the 1990′s.” This showed up because I’ve been watching Mystery Science Theater 3000, which I suppose is goofy, it was on TV in the 90′s and it’s funny, so I guess it works.

Alexis C. Madrigal, senior editor at The Atlantic was so fascinated by these strange encounters, he set out on a quest to understand and catalog all of the Netflix mico-genres. Final count? 76,897.

To create this massive database, Netflix hired people assign tags to every TV show and movie on the service noting actors, directors, setting, mood, and more. (A full-time job watching TV! Where do I  sign up?)

Madrigal reverse engineered the process and found a few interesting facts along the way. For example, they were able to pick out the most popular subjects.

Netflix subjects

Marriage and parenthood. Fame and royalty. Cats, dogs and horses. It is indeed a picture of the average American.

Other attributes that popped up a lot included the words Romantic, Classic and Dark. Movies and Shows “Set in Europe” and works from “the 1980′s” and “the 1970′s.”

What does all of this have to do with marketing? Two things.

First, the concept of micro-genres can be applied to any retail business to help customers make a buying decision. For example, I’ve recently taken up paper-crafting. I visited one large craft store online and was so overwhelmed with the choices I left without buying anything. Then I found an online store that features packages of items every week. They don’t actually sell the package but they create a page with links to everything I need to create a specific product. They’ve narrowed my choices and I’m grateful. Click, click, click. I buy the products, download the project sheet and feel confident in my choices. When it arrives I’ll be able to create something beautiful.

There’s that verses the stacks of miscellaneous stamps and stickers I bought over the years that don’t go together and never will.

Pick five items that go together, make-up a theme then post the collection to your blog and / or Facebook page. Get specific. The more niche, the better.

Second, let’s think about reverse engineering. Look at the sales data and work backwards. See the most popular items – what can you add to your line that will complement those items? Look at the poor sellers – are they bad products? Not right for your audience or were they just hidden on your site. What happens if you take the worst seller on your list and feature it alongside one of your best sellers.

The takeaway here is that data is your friend. Dive in and see what’s really going on with the business then craft a campaign to either capitalize on your big sellers or push out that old merchandise that’s not moving. People will buy anything (Visually-striking Foreign Nostalgic Dramas) if you package it right.

  • http://www.commencia.com/ Mike Hale

    The best one I’ve gotten so far is “gory foreign zombie horror movies”!

    • cynthialil

      Love it! I’ll bet there are . . . . at least 3?