I prefer to stay inside and hunker-down during the winter months. As if the bitter cold doesn’t make it easy enough to stay on the couch, binge watching new shows makes it even easier. Apparently, I am not alone as 86 percent of Millennials and even 33 percent of those over 69 years old binge-watch TV series.
Despite what your family and friends keep telling you, you most likely have not become “addicted to Breaking Bad and lost touch with the outside world.” You have merely fallen prey to a meticulously designed system that keeps you cruising through episode after episode. Many TV shows are designed and intended to be binge watched. This is why Netflix releases an entire season at a time and not one episode a week like traditional TV shows.
Beyond great story-telling, here’s why it’s so easy to click “Next Episode” and why we marketers need to keep the psychology of this media consumption in mind when creating content, and building strategies.
Programs Designed to Tease
The primary reason you keep watching is that these programs are packed full of cliffhangers and teasers. According to Catherine Franssen, a behavioral neuroendocrinologist, cliffhangers activate stress in your body. You become so stressed by wanting to know what happens next that your body releases hormones that keep you awake and alert. You may relate to choosing to watch “just one more” 40-minute episode very late at night with no other explanation than “I need to know what happens next.”
This thrill of an unresolved outcome is well-known in the gambling and lottery industry. It’s one reason why people can’t pull away from a slot machine or card game, and can seemingly play forever. Creating these types of experiences with your content is important. The tricky part? Balancing cliffhangers with a satisfying user experience.
Satisfaction of Task Completion
Another reason why polishing off episode after episode on Netflix is so satisfying is the “check list” layout of the interface. This layout is designed to be extremely satisfying as you audibly click through and cross off episodes on your “To-Do List” or other watch-list. Franssen’s scientific explanation for this feeling of satisfaction is the release of dopamine and serotonin in your brain as you successfully complete a task. Both of these transmitters are linked to overall feelings of pleasure in your body. You can work this into your marketing approach. Deliver appropriate content to users based on lead score and personalization. Avoid hitting people with the same message time and time again.
Social Connection and FOMO
Finally, one compelling reason why you can’t stop watching actually has more to do with socializing than with solitary viewing. It comes down to a very basic social fact; nobody ever wants to be left out of the fun. Whether all of your friends are talking about that crazy Netflix Narcos episode—or your organization’s latest blog—social sharing and validation are incredibly important components. You can leverage this phenomenon by incorporating social conversation and reviews in your content promotion of featured content.
So, whatever personal reason you assign to the hours spent following your favorite fictional character (yes, he/she isn’t actually real) just remember that this is how these shows are meant to be consumed. If you find yourself too squeamish to go outside and face the winter elements this season, pick a new show and clear your schedule, and remember to keep these behaviors in mind as you think about your marketing strategy for 2017.
Will Pontarelli is a former intern at RDW. He has a keen nose for the human story and brings an empathetic touch to his work in communications.