Bandersnatch: What Marketing and Sales Can Learn from Netflix’s Choose Your Own Adventure

MESH Interactive Agency
  • Date Published
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  • Reading Time 5-Minute Read

As the world moves to video first, you might wonder how your brand can stand out. We look to Netflix’s Interactive Video, Bandersnatch, for inspiration.

You may remember the Choose Your Own Adventure books from the 80s and 90s. These paperbacks allowed us to choose what actions the characters took at key moments of the adventure by turning to specific page numbers to find out what happened next.

In looking back at these, the analog version of choosing your own adventure seems clumsy and limited—yet somehow they captivated me—and millions of other kids.

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Inspired by this success  (and a little nostalgia) several years ago a new kind of choose your own adventure was born, this time digital and using video.

At first, these new interactive videos were relegated to ‘kids’ stuff’ just as the book versions were. One of the most famous early examples was Netflix releasing a choose your own adventure version of Puss in Boots.

But it didn’t stop there. Netflix believes that choose your own adventure technology isn’t just for kids. They quickly developed the very adult television show, Black Mirror, into a choose your path film, Bandersnatch.

And the success of that show has ramifications that move beyond the entertainment industry and can hold some very valuable lessons for marketers.

What Bandersnatch Can Teach Marketers About the Future of Interactive Video

Released in 2018, Bandersnatch broke with previous choose your own adventure projects by focusing specifically on the adult market. The anthology TV series on which it is based is known for presenting sci-fi stories that deliver harsh social commentary, often to horrifying conclusions.

Netflix took a gamble with Bandersnatch, believing that the interactive video format could be popular with adults (not a terrible gamble, 43% of adults want interactive control what information they see and when). While Netflix tends not to release data about streaming and popularity, based on social media mentions, the show was extremely popular.

Additionally, this was one of the exceptions when they did release some data regarding which endings were most popular with viewers. This isn’t just an interesting tidbit into the minds of television viewers; it also demonstrates that Netflix is collecting this data. In fact, using its choose your own adventure technology on an adult audience allows Netflix to collect valuable data about their audience.

The very first choice in Bandersnatch is what cereal to eat for breakfast. It’s an inconsequential choice to the storyline, but it’s also a demonstration of how much potential there is for all aspects of marketing within interactive video. Netflix has since incorporated the technology into several other adult shows. The Seth Meyers’ comedy special had a button that allowed viewers to skip the Trump jokes. And most recently, the sitcom, the Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt, was also turned into a choose your own adventure movie to a positive reception.

In each of these examples, Netflix is doing more than providing a fun experience. In fact, the advantages that interactive video gives to Netflix are numerous. It lets Netflix stand apart from the rest of the streaming services. Additionally, it’s positioned to collect valuable data. Finally, by working with interactive video technology, Netflix is able to provide an experience that is calculated to be enjoyable to multiple individuals.

The Importance of Persona Development and How Interactive Video Can Help

Persona development is a key component of any marketing campaign. Understanding who your target audience is, what their needs are, as well as how to best reach them is the difference between success and failure for marketers. And interactive video can help with persona development on two fronts.

First of all, interactive video helps you to better understand who your audience is and what their needs are. In other words, in seeing what people’s selections can help with persona development. When Netflix released data about the preferred endings on Bandersnatch journalists used it to speculate about viewers. This is a more extreme example, fitting for a sci-fi universe in a meta way, but there is a lesson for marketers who can implement this on a more direct level. Seeing users’ choices with interactive video lets you get to know them in ways not possible previously. It is untapped data that didn’t exist, and it may be one of the most effective ways of the future to build customer personas.

While interactive video allows you to collect data from users, it also allows you to create a more personalized message and experience for them. After successful persona development, one of the most important skills for a marketer is to be able to reach each individual persona that makes up the desired audience.

Often, different personas will be at odds with one another, making it impossible for a marketer to reach multiple personas with a single piece of content. Interactive video allows the marketer to individually tailor content to multiple personas with a single video.

Interactive Video Is More than a Kid’s Toy

What Netflix has shown, is that the potential for interactive video is a lot greater than a fun game for children. Rather, it allows people to create much better tools for professionals. Imagine your target audience is a surgeon. They don’t want to sit through the sections of a product video that are irrelevant to them and their practice. They want to be able to skip right to the parts that are relevant to them and not have their time wasted.

Giving users the choice in how they view marketing materials empowers them to control their own viewing experience, adjusting to their needs and wants. An interactive video is a powerful tool that gives marketers advantages from several angles, and no doubt one we will see more of in the future.