How One Simple Market Research Insight Launched Netflix into Global Growth


'Squid Game' is so popular that it is on track to become the most-streamed series ever in Netflix history. Not by a little, but by a margin that shows it is almost twice as streamed as the second-place series (Bridgerton). For anyone who has seen "Squid Game" or wants to see it, be forewarned that it contains "content warnings for sex, graphic violence, and suicide." In fact, according to WSJ, potential investors, studios, and even actors passed on the series because they considered it "too grotesque, too violent, and too implausible" yet later regretted their decision. Some said it was "too weird;" some actors declined because it was "too random." Even Jeff Bezos has tweeted his regret at passing up "Squid Game" and spoke highly of Netflix's global growth strategy.

Someone at Netflix, presumably based on their research, declared one insight that helped them decide to invest in Squid Game. The decision-makers at Netflix "thought the class struggles outlined in "Squid Game" spoke to reality." They believed that "Squid Game" would speak to millions of viewers worldwide as it uncovered "economic disparity" and a theme of Predatory capitalism that the Covid-19 pandemic exacerbated.

What did Netflix see that no one else saw in "Squid Game"? Well, it helps to step back to understand why Netflix decided to say "Yes" when everyone else said "No." We can look at Netflix's research process and their decision-making methodology to better understand how they uncovered the most-streamed show in history.

First, research underpins the entirety of Netflix’s enterprise. Netflix has a whole section of their site dedicated to explaining how research plays a role in their decision-making. Everything from Machine Learning to Data Analytics to Qualitative research drives virtually every decision within the organization.

Second, Netflix does "not centralize research into a separate organization." They embed their research processes into their business and engineering teams, and they thrive on the close relationships between researchers and all facets of their organization. 

Third, "research that applies to the same methodological area or business area is shared and highlighted in discussion and debate forums to strengthen the work and its impact." Not only do they apply research findings to their decisions, but they also iterate over their findings to maximize implementation. With the research directly embedded into the team, they ensure the follow-through occurs to apply the findings. There is no "dropping the ball" or failure to act.

How does your organization approach decision-making? Do you embrace research insights to drive your processes?