Relevant Content

Schrodinger’s Cat and the Quantum Mechanics of Relevant Content

Posted: February 16, 2018 by Angela Corbett


Are you familiar with Schrodinger’s Cat?

It’s a famous paradox in which a (fictional) cat in a box is both alive and dead.

The only way to know for sure if the cat is dead is to open the box, but opening the box will break a vial of poison, that will kill the cat.

Marketers face a similar paradox.

Customers want highly personalized, “hyper-relevant” experiences, but are pretty easily freaked out, considering how much they actually share on social media.

How do you know you’ve gone too far? You won’t until you do, and by then, it’s too late.

Come to think of it, quantum mechanics might actually be simpler.

For instance, take two campaigns, one from Spotify and the other from Netflix. Both campaigns were pretty much the same, taking some oddly specific user data to make a funny point about people’s media consumption habits.

The Spotify billboard read: “To the Person Who Listened to Justin Bieber’s ‘Sorry’ 42 times on Valentines Day — What did you do?”

The Netflix tweet read: “To the 52 people who’ve watched the Christmas Prince 8 days in a row — Who hurt you?”

The main difference?

Well, for starters, the Spotify billboard was very well received, to the point of the campaign making a reappearance.

But the Netflix one? Not so much. The backlash on that one was pretty swift and severe. The resounding conclusion “Why are you judging people, Netflix?

So where’s the line?

Well, it’s hard to say, since we’re talking in terms of psychology here, and everyone’s a little different, but generally, if your overly personal content doesn’t add value, you just… kinda seem like a stalker.

Spotify was showing the world that it was listening to everyone and caught a singular oddity. Netflix was showing the world that it was watching a very specific group of people.

If that still seems a little arbitrary, that’s because it is.

Here’s the thing. 44% of US consumers are irritated with content that isn’t directly relevant to them, but 48% of US customers are concerned about their data privacy.

And, at least 50% of US customers aren’t comfortable with most information being gathered about them, including the information that would make their shopping experiences more pleasant.

The general rule of thumb seems to be “don’t get too personal.”

(Well, that, and if you do get too personal, don’t broadcast it.)

People tend to like general metrics (I’m 18-25, Asian Female living in the United States).

Laser focused specifics? Maybe not. (My name is Kiku Marie Gross, I’m 5’3” and I had a chicken pot pie for dinner last night… yeah…)

Also, not to sound too much like your high school English teacher here, but consider the tone difference between the two ads.

When using personal information it’s best not to, you know, sound too judge-y.

Spotify’s copy is advertising the fact that they have Justin Bieber’s music in a cheeky way. Plus, it somehow sounds a little sorry for the person who did listen to that song.

(Pun 100% intended there.)

But Netflix sounds like it’s drawing some kind of conclusion, passing some kind of judgement.

The Spotify ad says “Hey, sorry you’re listening to breakup song on Valentine’s Day.”

The Netflix ad says “Why are you watching this movie so much, you weirdos?”

And sure, that might sound like I’m reading into this way more than I need to be, but you know, reading into stuff is kind of my job.

Besides, who really has the right to judge us for the media we consume, or why we consume it, anyways?

(Another Netflix faux pas, remember when we all felt like jerks for laughing over the person who watched the Bee Movie 357 times in a year only to find out it was a mother who was desperate to get her child to stop crying? Yeah.)

Luckily for you, Jeffrey Scott’s a gentleman, and he’d never cross a line. So you can trust us with your brand, and we won’t make it weird. Unless you want us to.

We’re talented like that.

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