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Netflix’s Unconventional Approach to Measuring Marketing Success

netflix logo on a tablet

Netflix doesn’t care about TV show ratings. The same numbers that many network executives live and die by are simply not on their radar.

Chief Content Officer Ted Sarandos — the man running the tiller behind groundbreaking series like Stranger Things and Orange Is the New Black — recognizes why ratings give others so much cause to fret. Every time those numbers roll in, network advertisers can trace a return on their investment. Therefore, shows that get big ratings draws can count on jucier and more competitive ad revenues.

But, since Netflix relies on subscribers rather than advertisers, they doesn’t work like that. “Ratings and reporting on ratings are an important part of the industry,” Sarandos noted at a press event, “but the focus of ratings has no importance to us.”

Instead, Netflix focuses on performance indicators that truly matter to them, ones that tell them whether or not their shows are deemed culturally significant. By measuring things like social mentions, critical reviews and media coverage, they can weigh how successful they are at becoming part of trending conversations.

Such an attribution model marches to the beat of a very different drum, but it’s a rhythm that other brands just may want to start listening to.

Netflix’s Goal: Create Trending Topics and Conversations

Hard numbers like TV ratings can indicate success, but they fluctuate wildly. They also only tangentially indicate positive performance since people all may have different reasons for tuning in.

Simply put, having a heart attack every time numbers are unexpectedly low may not be the healthiest way to measure success. On the flipside, having a huge draw may not always indicate a positive opinion of your product.

Breaking away from these ratings-obsessive highs and lows, Netflix instead measures the health of their brand through techniques like social listening. This method evolved as Netflix realized the importance of original programming. While tried-and-true properties like Frasier brought them initial success, they quickly realized that they would need to create their own brand in order to sustain themselves — and compete with nearly identical services.

“We’re much more interested in creating conversation surrounding our shows than anything else, and bringing that type of original programming to subscribers,” Sarandos says about how they approach measurement.


By becoming a part of conversation or starting their own, they know that their product won’t get lost alongside all of the other distractions out there. Even more importantly, these conversations bring new customers to the table more than minor features or benefits.

“If you subscribe to Netflix and you tell your friend, they’ll subscribe to Netflix,” asserts Sarandos. “If we don’t make good programming, and you don’t recommend it, people don’t join or they leave.”

How Your Brand Can Be More Like Netflix

We would never suggest that your brand could have the luxury of ignoring major marketing metrics like Netflix does, but seeking to become a share of conversation should also be a goal.

Tell stories with your products and your marketing. Raise questions or discuss values that resonate with people’s current reflection of the world around them. Under Armour’s Misty Copeland commercial is an incredible example of this, full of emotion and deep, heavy concepts that are expressed in a pure form:

You don’t have to have a multi-million dollar budget or a team of Harvard-grad writers to become a conversation starter, either. Host an event where you boost a local charity whose cause reflects your brand’s own goals. Ask deep questions related to why we make the choices we do and how choosing your brand is a positive step in a different direction.

Ideas like these resonate, and more importantly, they get people talking.

If you want assistance with your own digital marketing campaigns in order to grow conversations around your brand, contact EverSpark Interactive today.