Big data analytics: How Netflix uses Hollywood’s ‘golden gut’ to avoid blind spots

Relying too much on big data analytics can block brands from connecting with consumers, insights director for Netflix, Tim Donza, told last week’s ADMA Global Forum. 


Donza shared how his Hollywood-based team borrows from the film industry legend of the ‘golden gut’ to stay in touch with what consumers want.

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Even with sophisticated software and understanding of big data, relying on data alone can be problematic, and even cause blind spots for marketers, Donza said.

“The tech world has opened up so many possibilities for what marketing is now and can be in the future,” Donza told delegates. “But sometimes we can lose sight of the human need to feel a connection to the brand.”

With a business model straddling technology and entertainment fields, Netflix has built a strong culture around both story-telling and data. This perspective has given the disruptive online player an approach that values both the art and science of marketing equally.

“Hollywood is a place where the greatest of stories get told,” Donza said. “But if you asked a director how they made a film you wouldn’t hear too much about data.

“The great films are made because of someone’s gut instinct. Those who have a track record for making great films are known as having the golden gut. They know what stories are going to resonate with audiences.”

“It’s not as far away from the world of packaged goods or technology or services as you think… understanding your consumer, how they see the world, how they see their lives and how they want to see the world.”

Few can lay claim to the instincts needed to rely on gut alone, leading Donza to the concept of ‘golden data’ – the crucial data points that will help a brand connect with an audience emotionally.

“For the time being its problematic to rely on just data or all on the golden gut,” he explained. “Look at all the points of information, whether they be gut or data, and allow them to guide you to a stronger answer than you could come to on your own.”

Donza asks three questions to identify golden data:

  1. What did I hear or see out there in the world?
  2. What do I know?
  3. What is the truth?


Like the Great and Powerful Oz, the magic is in the hard work that goes on behind the curtain, along with the flair needed to impress an audience. Too great a reliance on either instinct or data, can result in brands that fail to resonate with consumers.


Chris Byrne
BY Chris Byrne ON 6 August 2014
Chris Byrne used to be research editor of this publication, but now contributes from various locations. He also contributes to The Fetch and has been published in The Guardian, Sydney Morning Herald and The Age.
Tweet him @penseive