When waiting time video loading got slow, Netflix used social media to advise consumers they should blame Verizon. “The Verizon network is crowded right now,” they tweeted, but informed customers that Netflix was in the process of adjusting for smoother playback.
Verizon vehemently disagreed and sent a message of their own to Netflix through their attorneys. A cease-and-desist letter that said in part, “false accusations have the potential to harm the Verizon brand” and that the allegation was “self-serving, deceptive, inaccurate, and an unfair business practice.” Verizon went on to point out that Netflix’s systems for streaming are complex and so you can’t just blame Verizon – without substantiation at least, and they asked Netflix to produce a list of the customers who received the notice.
There are issues about who pays what for connecting directly to the Verizon network and bypassing the ‘go-between’ that carries content through the Internet, what makes it faster or slower, and other Internet/digital minutiae that’s generally left to lawyers and technology expert-witnesses to sort out, but that’s the legal perspective.
Here’s the brand perspective: Ultimately it comes down to which brand the consumer believes – or doesn’t believe. And believability is always ceded to the brand that consumers are most highly emotionally engaged with. Of course there are rational rights and wrongs, and nobody likes a slow download, but the more emotionally engaged a consumer is with a brand always translates to higher degrees of loyalty – real loyalty, not just collecting points – the benefits of genuine loyalty. Real loyalty is always accompanied by better behavior toward the more-emotionally-engaged-with-brand. More usage, increased recommendations, the kind of things successful brands aspire to. Engagement and loyalty also translates to higher degrees of believability and the consumer’s willingness to give the brand with the highest engagement the benefit of the doubt in uncertain circumstances. Six times more, in fact.
While brand engagement is category-specific, it is possible to compare Online Video Streaming and Broadband Providers via their individual category Ideals, configured to be 100%. When we do that, Netflix comes out significantly higher than Verizon – 89% vs. 77%. And, as engagement correlates with all those positive behaviors and attitudes and compassion, consumers should feel the same way in the real marketplace. And they did.
In a survey of 1,000 U.S. consumers who have streaming video, when asked who was most likely responsible for slow program streaming/downloading, their primary Video Provider or the Broadband Provider, 86% blamed the Broadband Provider. And of 400 consumers in the sample who cited Netflix as their primary provider, when asked whether the blame would fall at the feet of Netflix or Verizon, 365, or 91% blamed Verizon.
That’s the nice thing about predictive emotional engagement and loyalty metrics, they always play out in the real marketplace.
The Verizon letter to warned that the brand could “pursue legal remedies,” but in this instance, given the brand’s current emotional engagement levels, they probably want to avoid a jury trial.