The Power in Knowing: How Media Marketing Optimized the “Now Streaming…” Craze

Streaming services such as Netflix, Spotify, Twitch, and even social media platforms like YouTube or Instagram Live, have infiltrated the entertainment business from various angles and are poised to become (if not already) more popular than cable services. Even if your household doesn’t subscribe to one of the many on-demand options for shows, movies, or music, the concept of streaming is most likely not foreign. With this increase in streaming entertainment, the means of traditional media-based marketing has needed to adjust to accommodate changing behaviors towards advertising and types of marketing exposures. The evolution of how leisure time is spent impacts how consumers establish connections and, therefore, requires marketers to develop innovative ways to discover consumer preferences. 

To convert new customers, media consumers are inundated with promotional activities to get hooked. Having family rates or bundle deals are some of the many ways companies attract viewers to their platform. Behaviorally, rather than a one-time payment, these streaming services typically utilize monthly subscriptions. Access to different levels of service and benefits may be determined by the amount you pay. Hulu, as an example, offers a base service with the option for add-on networks. The freedom to access entertainment on-demand is convenient and enticing but has ultimately and fundamentally changed how consumers consume and retain information. Understanding consumer preferences and priorities gives developers and marketers a better gauge as to which messaging, offerings, and designs are best to promote. Addressing how the streaming industry uses market research strategies to combat consumer hesitations reveals the value in really knowing the consumer. Through the appropriate use of media market research, information gleaned can be telling of which strategies are best to employ.

The Marie Kondo Motive: Does it bring (the consumer) joy?

The streaming industry has unique challenges to overcome compared to other forms of entertainment. Streaming companies must act aggressively to compete with the other content providers offering similar services. Critical components, such as differentiation and price, will influence the audience willing to consistently subscribe. Consumers have adapted to the on-demand lifestyle and find streaming a very personal experience since the suggestions seem customized to the individual. This discipline of consumer goods, known as digital offerings, does not fit the mold of traditional goods and requires the field to get creative in the marketing space.

The relationship between consumers and content providers has shifted due to the advancement in streaming. Prior to streaming, most individuals would have a cable package or own a physical copy of a DVD, VHS, CD, vinyl LP, etc. Both cable and physical copies have features which may be enticing to consumers. Cable TV offers many types of news outlets as well as local community channels which are not options for many streaming services. Flipping through different channels is also a fun pastime for viewers. Further, owning a physical display, like an impressive CD collection, can have sentimental value or feel like a higher echelon of appreciation due to the continuous process of maintaining and curating. While both cable and physical copies have benefits, it is clear the convenience of streaming technology is enticing many to make the switch. The flexibility of a monthly subscription, personalization of the media, and minimal ads encourages digital adoption.

Modifications to consumer preferences are even represented by the medium in which the entertainment is shared. Entertainment is now accessible not only from the television but also from mobile devices, gaming devices, or tablets. Following the growth of products associated with the service itself helps to learn what best resonates with certain audiences. Awareness of the challenges of traditional means facilitates solutions and improves the advantages of the alternative to better suit consumer expectations.  

One Big Hurdle: Making the Virtual More Tangible

Any new digitalization must prove itself as a real value to consumers’ lives. The physical purchase has a tangible component which is challenging to obtain with streaming. If you cancel a subscription, the service no longer exists (or now includes ads after every few songs or videos). The fragmented experience of streaming altered the expectation from ownership to access (Micken, Roberts, & Oliver, 2020). Kirk and Swain (2018) recognized that physical versus digital entertainment products are an innately different experience both fulfilling the same need; therefore, consumer media habits must benefit by one over the other in order to commit to its use. 

Companies are aware of the disconnect created by selling a service as opposed to tangible items. Different strategies are implemented from behavioral economics to trigger a stronger feeling of ownership. One common concept frequently tapped into is known as the endowment effect, which suggests consumers value items more when they personally own it (Knutson et al., 2008). To trigger the endowment effect, companies try to make the experience as personalized as possible. By insinuating the consumer is associated with the service, it suggests the platform tells something consumer identity. Further, the personalization implies a sense of ownership over the service. For example, offering a three-month free trial taps into the endowment effect by making the service actually available for consumers to use.  Not only does this offer allow consumers to get familiar with the platform, but the interactions give consumers more of a reason to stay. Getting hooked on a new series or creating personalized playlists continues that feeling of ownership, even in a virtual environment. This particular strategy also makes the endowment effect more apparent by setting a limit. After the three months are up, consumers either have to downgrade or start to pay the cost. Having a designated cutoff forces the consumer to be aware of the loss potential of the service. This makes the endowment effect more apparent since consumers have lived the experience of using a streaming service, thus creating a sense of ownership.

Utilizing these strategies from behavioral economics helps companies to encourage service adoption, but the value in keeping the consumer engaged is inherent in the design. Customer retention and increased satisfaction creates brand loyalty, thus making it easier to listen and consider the consumer response. To see what causes certain consumer responses, marketing research can help to analyze behaviors and understand intentionality of the viewer.

The Media Marathon

When investigating media testing, it’s important to consider all the components that make up the final product. Each medium, from advertisements to movies, includes a multitude of variabilities which can impact the experience. It is important to reflect on the overall message of the media research to build a research question addressing key objectives. Commonly explored areas of media testing include attention, affect, memory, and desirability which are constructs used to determine effectiveness. Further, traditional measures, such as self-reports or interviews, can address measures of liking or excitability (Venkatraman et al., 2015). By leveraging the different sources of information from market research, content creators and marketing teams can gain insights into what is engaging the viewer. How entertaining is the experience? Did the viewer notice the call to action at the branding moment? Is the storyline memorable? Behavioral, psychological, neuroscientific, and traditional tools can create more informed decisions to improve the final product and determine what components are enhancing or hindering the desired effect. By collecting the appropriate behavioral data, psychophysiological research, or conducting survey research, the consumer perception of the particular media experience can be revealed. The table below shares some useful methodologies to integrate with media testing from Venkatraman et al. (2015).

ToolFunctionThe Media Advantage
Heart rate/heart rate variability (HR/HRV)Records the electrical activity of the heart through skin electrodesProvides insight into motivation, emotional arousal, and attention
Electroencephalography (EEG)Records the brain’s synaptic waves in volts across its surface to examine brain functions and responsesQuantifies brain states such as cognitive load, engagement, or motivation about an experience
Galvanic Skin Response (GSR)Measures changes in skin conductanceProvides insight into engagement, intensity, and excitement
Facial Electromyography (fEMG)Measures electrical pulses in facial muscle activityRecords positive and negative emotional valences
Eye trackingCaptures visual attention via gaze behaviorIdentifies visual patterns, areas of focus, and the sequence of visual events
Implicit MeasuresMeasures the strength of associations among conceptsUnderstanding consumer perceptions reveals facets such as brand affinity, attitudes towards stimuli, and emotional valence

This table reflects just a few of the many innovative tools which can be used to advance media testing. Designing a study to best answer the research question involves considering all the different tools available to know which is the most appropriate to utilize. Interest in stopping power may need different assessments than evaluations on branding moment or overall attention. By developing a strong research question, the insights can help not only the developers, but the end-viewers as well.

Time is of the Essence

Time is a very valuable resource for companies and consumers. Now more than ever, it’s crucial to create engaging media content to truly have your message received by the viewers. The end-design must best reflect the consumer, or they will just find other content libraries in the vast streaming market. This competitive landscape of media and entertainment pushes the quality of the content to be innovative and engaging. To make that consumer connection, learning about what shapes attitudes, behaviors, and preferences is key to having a successful media campaign. So, the takeaway for mastering the ever-changing consumer media consumption is really quite simple: in order to grow, you have to know. By collecting quality data, an opportunity is created to design a strong, valuable message or service with a lasting effect.   

If you are interested in learning more about how HCD Research can elevate your media testing, please contact Allison Gutkowski at Allison.gutkowski@hcdi.net.

References:

Kirk, C. P., & Swain, S. D. (2018). Consumer psychological ownership of digital technology. In Psychological ownership and consumer behavior (pp. 69-90). Springer, Cham.

Knutson, B., Wimmer, G. E., Rick, S., Hollon, N. G., Prelec, D., & Loewenstein, G. (2008). Neural antecedents of the endowment effect. Neuron58(5), 814-822.

Micken, K. S., Roberts, S. D., & Oliver, J. D. (2020). The digital continuum: the influence of ownership, access, control, and Cocreation on digital offerings. AMS Review10(1), 98-115.

Venkatraman, V., Dimoka, A., Pavlou, P. A., Vo, K., Hampton, W., Bollinger, B., … & Winer, R. S. (2015). Predicting advertising success beyond traditional measures: New insights from neurophysiological methods and market response modeling. Journal of Marketing Research52(4), 436-452.