In late September, Netflix blew the internet’s collective mind when it revealed that it could predict when you start binge-watching a show. According to the massively popular streaming site, all of its most popular series have an episode from which 70% of viewers continue on to finish the season. That’s a massive chunk of viewers! Whatever episode causes that kind of reaction has some serious pulling power. As Design House Agency’s resident Social Media Strategist (intern) and millennial, I knew I had to investigate.

Part I: The Method

(warning: this blog post contains Bates Motel spoilers through episode two)

The easiest, quickest and most fun way to go about investigating, I decided, was to just watch a series myself. Just in time for Halloween, I decided the creepy AMC series Bates Motel would be a good choice. Having no prior knowledge of the series or the movie classic Psycho (which the characters are loosely based off), I figured it would be easy to remain unbiased.


image via Netflix

Rather than find out any information on the show (other than a couple stellar recommendations from my roommates), I decided to just dive in. According to Netflix, I had to watch two episodes before supposedly getting addicted.

So here’s what I found:

In the Pilot, you get introduced to Norma, Norman and White Pine Bay. You see two major deaths, a gruesome rape scene, and some Mother/Son chemistry that is insanely creepy. But this is all pretty expected – after all this is the prequel to Psycho, and most viewers (even the most ignorant of ones like myself) know what Norman Bates will become going in. It’s a little hard to watch at some places, but it’s really intriguing. It’s scary. Plus the lead actors have amazing chemistry. But they’re not really likable – by the end of the episode, they’re not a single lead character that you’re left with a particularly good feeling about.


image via Netflix


So, enter Dillon in episode two.

Dillon is Norman’s mysterious half-brother who pops up out of nowhere in the beginning of the episode. A charming, attractive and well-intentioned (although rough around the edges) underdog, Dillon serves as the perfect FOIL to our two already established leads. In terms of parenting style, he’s Norma’s perfect opposite. In terms of character, he’s Norman’s perfect opposite. Basically, he’s really really likable.


Part II: The Findings

I was hypothesize that the audience gets hooked on Bates after it gets introduced to a character it can actually get behind. In fact, I’m going to extend that to all the popular titles on Netflix (if I may be so bold) – An audience member gets hooked on a show once it feels a strong personal connection to the character (s). For Bates, the creepy Mother/Son pair are the selling point, but the relatable characters like Dillon, Romero and Bradley are the real hooks.


image via Netflix

To cement this idea further, I continued to watch the series with a friend who had not been ‘hooked’ on episode two. After an hour or two more, she has found herself binge-watching the series by episode four. Her one complaint about the earlier episodes? “It didn’t involve the other characters enough.” In fact, she had found herself more immersed in the series once Dillan became more immersed in the plot.


Part III: What can brands learn from Netflix?

As a marketing student and social media strategist, only one question pops into my mind – what does this mean for brands?

Well, if we assume that and audience member will typically start ‘binge-watching’ a show when they feel personally attached to the characters, we can probably suggest that viewers enjoy things that 1) they feel a personal connection with, and 2) is easily accessible. Luckily, during the age of personalized and ‘organic’ social media, vehicles like twitter and snapchat allow brands to do just that! Ultimately, I suggest that we as marketers and strategists take three key virtues from Netflix’s study:


1). Feel personal and organic


image via Netflix

Like Bradley Martin, make your consumer feel like a friend.


2.) Be consistent


image via Netflix

Don’t leave your consumers guessing when it comes to your brand image – they should know what you’re about! Viewers like Bates Motel for is creepy imagery and dramatic plot twists. What do can your brand consistently offer consumers?

3.) Be easily accessible


image via Netflix

If you want to connect with your target audience, you have to be easy to find. That means having an online presence is, as well all know, more important than ever.

All images (including header) are provided by Netflix.