Netflix’s trailblazing approach to personalising the TV show and movie artwork it shows to subscribers allows it to combat content blindness and increase views. For anyone marketing products and properties, their approach offers many lessons
As you browse Netflix, do you add shows and movie to your watch list? Many of us do, but often some of those titles end up sitting there for weeks or months. You go to the list when you’re deciding what to put on, but you scroll right past them every time.
And then comes the clever bit: Netflix changes the artwork thumbnail – and suddenly you want to watch it.
Netflix has become far and away the market leader in how it delivers recommendations to its subscribers. The personalised artwork thumbnails you see are the result of their team developing a sophisticated algorithm that analyses your behaviour and that of other subscribers with similar tastes to show you images you’re more likely to respond to.
Netflix says: “We want our members to spend less time looking for something to watch and more time watching something they truly enjoy.”
The team at Netflix knows that people respond better to content that is tailored to their tastes. They also know people become ‘content blind’ and tune out images they see repeatedly.
What is content blindness?
When we see the same content over and over, whether it’s a photo of a property exterior, a shot of a bedroom, an advertising banner on a website, or a company logo, we become blind to it. Psychologists call this habituation.
Overcoming habituation is a challenge most marketers face. At Image Foundry, we take inspiration from Netflix and enable our clients to reach their customers with a pack of CGI marketing assets tailored to them. With our CGI, you can switch out your hero image for a personalised image or animation to breathe new life into your campaign.
The Netflix approach in detail
Netflix uses an algorithm to select artwork for subscribers, so different people see different imagery. Take, for example, the show Stranger Things. Some people will see a thumbnail of a spooky forest, while others will see a close-up of two characters who seem to be romantically involved.
The Netflix recommendation algorithm works ‘on the fly’, meaning it isn’t perfected after learning from millions of inputs. It continually refines its recommendations as you use the platform.
What’s interesting about Netflix’s algorithm is that it isn’t based on demographics such as age or gender. It’s based on your behaviour – on indicators such as the titles you choose to watch and how long you watch them for. It’s also based on the behaviour of other subscribers with similar tastes.
By tailoring the teaser content in this way, Netflix increases the chances of its subscribers choosing the show or movie.
This is effective in two ways:
How to use the Netflix approach to market products and properties
Effective marketing depends on your ability to share the right content with the right people at the right times.
The right people
Product and property buyers tend to spend time online like everyone else, so to get in front of them, you’ll want to be sharing your content on some of or all the following digital channels:
Once you know where your potential customers spend their time, you need to publish content there that will make them take notice.
Whether you’re selling luxury kitchen taps, high-end sofas or new-build properties, the answer isn’t simply one product image.
Put yourself in your customers’ shoes. Just as when you’re looking for a new item of clothing or a new car, you want to explore it from a variety of angles and in a variety of contexts. Depending on how much time you have, you might prefer to see a still image or watch an animated video.
People interested in buying a new bed often find inspiration on social media, particularly networks such as Instagram and Pinterest. Showing the same bed styled differently, in different interiors and at different times of day, or even for occasions such as Valentine’s Day, can be powerful – and much more effective than repeating the same images.
It’s not just a case of resizing images according to the required dimensions for each channel. Think about the buyer journey so you can understand your customers’ behaviour and empathise with them, as that way, you’ll be able to publish content that is most relevant to them at different stages of the journey.
Applying the approach to property marketing
We conducted our own study, collecting and analysing data over a 12-month period from a cross section of 29 property developers. The results revealed 40% of property buyers are under 40. We know this demographic spends an increasing amount of time searching online and scrolling through social media – so this is where you need to be reaching them.
The buyer may start their search by looking for a property matching their criteria on Zoopla or Rightmove. You don’t have long to get their attention as they’re scrolling through properties. The choice of thumbnail here is, of course, important. It should show the property in its best light and in a way that is likely to appeal to the intended demographic.
On the first visit, you can expect buyers to shortlist the properties they like (either by using the heart icon or mentally) and disregard the rest. Each time they return to the site, they’re likely to tune out any properties they’ve already seen. As well as becoming blind to them, they may even be actively prejudiced against them. It will take a lot to challenge their perception and open their mind – but this is exactly the power of using a suite of different images rather than just one.
Anshul Kapoor, director at Image Foundry, says: “Tailoring your visual content to your customers gets great results. We see it all the time with our clients. Take an exterior property shot. While the research shows people still want that perfect marketing shot of the front of the building on a warm sunny day, if you really want to stand out, you can also give house buyers a real sense of what it’s like to live there by adding a car on the driveway and someone taking the shopping out of the car boot.”
“You get a completely different feel for a home depending on whether you visit it in summer, winter, the morning or the evening, and we can create these things using CGI. Having a series of assets like this to be able to share with house buyers can help you win them over, even after they’ve tuned out one image.”
If you want to get better results from your marketing, remember:
Here at Image Foundry, we work with product and property marketers to help them make a bigger impact with the content they share.
We harness customer understanding to create persuasive CGI – not just a couple of stills, but a series of stills, animations, interactives and VR. This means you can reach your customers at different stages of the buyer journey on different channels.
You can read more about our approach here.