The data-powered success of Netflix’s ‘Stranger Things’

The second volume of the fourth season of Netflix’s hit series “Stranger Things” touched down on July 1, and it was a smash hit. According to Netflix's internal metrics, the show just became only the second Netflix series ever to cross 1 billion hours viewed within its first 28 days of availability, and the premiere of Season 4 (Volume One) set the record for Netflix’s biggest-ever premiere weekend for an English-language series.

It’s safe to say it’s a popular show. The question is: Did Netflix know that it would be the mega success that it did when it first came out?

Despite the fact that the cast was made up of mostly unknown actors and the marketing for Season 1 was largely grassroots, the show was awarded a $6 million per episode budget in its first season. Netflix had more than just faith the show would be a success.

Viewer data helped drive the look and feel of "Stranger Things," something that catapulted the sleeper show to Netflix's crown jewel. And it's not science fiction: Brands can also use consumer data to develop their own marketing magic.

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First-party data is a superpower of its own

Netflix connects with its 200 million-plus subscribers directly every day, filing away hordes of extremely valuable first-party data. They use this data expertly—using viewership data to drive everything from production and marketing to content creation. . Since the very beginning of the streaming service, it has been using predictive-analysis algorithms to recommend personalized content to its subscribers.

So, in many ways, Netflix was very sure “Stranger Things” would be a hit. They based their decision to produce the series with the budget it received on data analysis of what previous Netflix content was performing well. The series was a hit because Netflix listened to data when creating it.

On top of that, Netflix used its data to best position the show to its subscribers on an individual-level basis. Knowing who they serve allowed them to show one promotional image of the show to one subscriber on their homepage, while a completely different image to another subscriber on their homepage—all based on the data Netflix has on those two separate individuals.

In a world where third-party identifiers are going away, first-party data is becoming even more important for marketers looking to successfully engage their customer base. And thankfully, according to our research, most marketers are putting greater emphasis on their first-party data strategy.

But it’s not enough just to collect the data; marketers need to know how to wield it. As needs to be said for all superpowers, “With great power comes great responsibility.”

How to use first-party data like a superhero

Ultimately, focusing on and scaling first-party data is an opportunity for brands to free themselves from their reliance on external identifiers and restore balance in the marketing ecosystem. But there are a few things marketers need to consider.

First is organization. Unorganized first-party data isn’t an asset; it’s a nightmare. That’s why data platform technologies, like customer data platforms (CDPs), are having a moment. CDPs support the creation of a unified, optimized profile for each consumer. CDPs are essential to gain accurate insights into your consumers’ behaviors, and power intelligent, real-time decisioning and personalization across all your channels.

Once your first-party data is optimized for activation, data clean rooms then offer brands secure, privacy-by-design platforms to connect their anonymized data from multiple parties. By onboarding first-party data into a clean room, a brand has a comprehensive set of anonymized consumer profiles for audience identification, activation and measurement across media channels.

In terms of activation, first-party data allows brands, like Netflix, to connect with their customers on a one-on-one level. This is crucial; not only do you want to understand your customers in order to create your overall strategy, but you also want to be able to speak to them with your messaging on an individual basis.

Don’t stay in the upside down – activate your first-party data

You may not be able to save the world with a robust first-party data strategy, but you sure can enhance your marketing. At Epsilon, our solutions allow marketers to recognize customers wherever they are with a unified profile. These consumer insights drive personalized marketing through powerful AI and ultimately results in better outcomes for both the customer and the brand.

Epsilon PeopleCloud lets brands connect billions of online and offline intent signals to understand what each person wants, and then reach those people across devices and channels using an interconnected product suite and persistent IDs.

Big brands like Netflix are taking big bets on delivering experiences they know are going to resonate with their audiences. You don't need to be a major Hollywood studio to have the same kind of impact: First-party data gives all types of brands the chance to do something impactful.

To dive even deeper into the ways first-party data prioritization can boost your marketing, check out this blog post on how moving from segmentation to segments of one can drive super results.