What Netflix’s Investment in Stars like Shonda Rhimes Teaches Us About Good Copywriting

Estimated reading time: 13 minute(s)

SCENE: Apartment, morning. SHOT: You in sweatpants with bed head, sitting on the couch before the television. After some idle flipping you land on the latest Netflix Original series, and before you know it you’re halfway through the show and your hair is still a mess. At one point or another in our lives, we have all been this character, the binge-watcher.

It’s a character none of us should be ashamed to be because humans crave stories! Netflix, with its seemingly endless pool of data analytics, can nearly bottle what we crave about stories. But even with all the mined data and analytics in the world, at their core, companies like Netflix still rely on great writers to deliver their product and to connect with customers on a personal level. Let’s find out why.  

Great copywriting sucks you in like a movie.
High-quality copywriting sucks readers in like great movies.

It Takes More Than Analytics to Deliver Your Customers

What once began as a snail-mail rental system, Netflix now has nearly $16 billion in content deals, and $6 billion of that going towards original programming in 2017, according to CEO Reed Hastings. Much of that growth can be attributed to Netflix understanding viewers’ habits. Using a wide range of data points including where and when viewers watch, as well as when they rewind or fast-forward, Netflix is able to determine when viewers are “hooked,” or the point in a series where 70% go on to watch the rest of the show. The annual study has validated and helped fine-tune Netflix’s “binge-watching” approach by showing what viewers may want in a particular show genre. Much like how content marketers use SEO, Netflix’s data on “hooked” viewers illustrates their customers’ behaviors.

However, even with all of Netflix’s data and its insights about their product, the magic of creating the stories customers want resides in the writers’ room. This has never been more apparent than during the past few weeks when Netflix signed one of Hollywood’s biggest stars, Shonda Rhimes, to a multi-year contract. The news came just shortly after Disney/ABC, Rhimes home over the past 15 years, announced it would be launching a streaming service of its own by 2019.

“Shonda Rhimes is one of the greatest storytellers in the history of television,” said Ted Sarandos, Netflix’s Chief Content Officer. “Her work is gripping, inventive, pulse-pounding, heart-stopping, taboo-breaking television at its best.” What Sarandos describes here is something Netflix analytics cannot deliver on its own. It takes writers working alongside analytics to deliver the stories that get customers “hooked.”

And, like the best TV writing, copywriting can elevate your business to where consumers understand your product and crave your services.

The Similarities Between Good TV Writing & Copywriting

Quality copywriting reflects TV programs that encourage binge-watching.
You can’t help but watch one more episode. Quality copywriting has the same effect.

Over the past 15 years, Shonda Rhimes has become America’s most prolific and popular television showrunner and writer. Earlier this summer she delivered a Masterclass where she explained how the “art” of television writing is first a business.

“You don’t just get to write whatever you want and then somebody magically puts it on the air,” Rhimes tells her team.

Like television writers who must serve the story and characters, copywriters are masters of knowing and writing for clients and their audience.

Rhimes also understands that knowing your conclusion or finale is an essential element of good writing. “I try to step into a drama knowing, from the very beginning, what the last scene is going to be.” The best quality copywriting follows a similar path. For MarketSmiths, that path begins with our team of professional copywriters finding what makes your business distinct, and then deftly threading that into every aspect of your business’s writing. Our understanding of your business needs will bring you closer to your target audience through the power of good writing.

Take A Page From Netflix’s Script

While Netflix could have continued to only contract with other studios and mine the data of those shows, the company instead made the investment to hire industry leading talent like Shonda Rhimes to help write and deliver the best content available today. Netflix’s efforts to own its story should inspire any company looking to make the next big step in its development.  

And while your company may not be looking for the next Scandal or Grey’s Anatomy, every business benefits from good writing. Whether it be the content of your website or a unique copywriting solution, let the talented team at MarketSmiths make your story binge-worthy. Contact us today.

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Brendan Finn

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