The Netflix Effect: How New Databases are Changing Channel Branding

By Graeme Newell Comment

-Traditional media branding strategies tend to stereotype customers and miss true motivations.
-Powerful new customer databases make attitude targeting the best new opportunity.
-In the future more cable channels will be programming for attitude and mindset, not just content preference.

Read part one of this series on brand expansion here.

What are they thinking?

It just seems like foolhardy brand dilution. History is running a competition show, Top Shots. Cartoon Network has a scripted live-action series, Unnatural History. But the next generation of powerful audience targeting tools has arrived and what seems like lack of brand focus is actually the first exciting steps in what will be a new marketing paradigm.

Why the abandonment of traditional TV marketing structure? The simple truth is that experienced programmers are finding that the old programming-based, content-genre strategy, just doesn’t work very well. In a world of hundreds of cable channels, many of them virtually identical to competitors, the appeal of specific program genres is diminishing. In the viral world of social networks, texting, and instant communication, hit shows are generating the most buzz and turning a disdainful public’s head. Collections of many average shows, build around a specific content niche just can’t generate the same kind of buzz as big whomping hits that gets tongues wagging and sampling happening.

The Stereotype Model of Advertising

Our current TV landscape was built using the old advertising model the stereotype paradigm. Understanding big groups of people is really tough. Though we try hard not to, all of us rely on stereotypes to keep the people we meet in some sort of mentally comprehensible order. Take a look at this list and identify the stereotypes you use with each of these groups:

Soccer Players

It’s just easier to think of all actors as slightly insecure, artsy-types, in need of validation. But these sweeping generalizations dont work well in life and they dont work well in the world of marketing either.

Since its inception, the media world has relied on this inefficient stereotype system as a foundation. A typical ad campaign might be targeted to “mothers in their 30s.” Ask the creative team to define a creative approach for this demographic and you will see the stereotypes take wing. The clichd imagery will probably include hackneyed scenes of mini-vans, harried schedules, tender hugs in the kitchen, and bargain shopping. Yet most moms don’t drive minivans.

This oversimplification gets us off the creative hook. By defining moms with a single amorphous clich, the creative and media buying tasks now become manageable.

Why has it always been done this way? Because it was the only option. This was the way media outlets were constructed. Magazines, TV, radio and all media organized their businesses by defining a specific audience niche, then hyper-served that niche.

They created a walled garden that served one very specific aspect of a customer’s life and ignored everything else. The Wall Street Journal was for high-powered executives. Animal Planet was for animal lovers. We was for women. There were lots of high-powered, women executives who loved animals, but this kind of advertising cross-pollination just wasn’t practical. It was too small an audience to go after–that is, until now.

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Graeme Newell is a broadcast and web marketing specialist who serves as the president and founder of 602 communications. You can reach Graeme at