Content Marketing

Bandersnatch Is a Must-See Case Study in the Future of Content Creation

Ramona Sukhraj

Head of Editorial Content, Strategized Initiatives That Increased IMPACT’s Website Traffic From ~45K to ~400K

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Bandersnatch Is a Must-See Case Study in the Future of Content Creation Blog Feature

Published on January 2nd, 2019

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At first, "Bandersnatch" may sound like a nasty name for a foe (at least it did to me), but it’s actually quite a treat, especially for those in the content field.

Black Mirror: Bandersnatch is an interactive film released by Netflix, last week.

Throughout the film, following Stefan, a young computer game programmer, in 1984, viewers are prompted to choose between two different options that will change how the plot unfolds.

The result is an immersive narrative experience that has taken social media by storm and will surely impact the way people create content in 2019 and beyond.

Let’s unbox it a bit, shall we?

(Warning: This may contain a minor spoiler or two.)

Where Bandersnatch Went Right

As a marketer and writer, there’s a lot that Bandersnatch does right that serves as a brilliant case study for content creators.

The obvious starting point is the fact that it was interactive.

Unlike most Netflix programming (or even digital content you create every day) which can be consumed passively, Bandersnatch forces the viewer to guide the direction of what happens next in a “choose your own adventure” format.

Now, I know, this level of personalization may seem daunting and unrealistic to a small marketing team, but that’s another thing the film got right.

It had limits. 

Yes, to truly grasp the intended experience and message of the story, the user needs to participate, but they also only have 10 seconds to choose an option before the film continues on its own. 

As we’ll discuss shortly, the film has multiple endings, but the team takes smart measures to ensure people still ultimately come to the ending that it wants you to see.

In the film, Stefan quips that his game simply “creates the illusion of choice” while ensuring that the intended message is still delivered, and Bandersnatch does just that.

It comes with a goal but enables the audience to “choose” how its achieved through interaction.

This interaction is a direct catalyst of another beauty of the film— it gets the viewer viscerally invested in the story.

Instead of passively watching, viewers become emotionally involved in the plot and moral of Bandersnatch as they immediately see the effects of their choices in what happens to Stefan next. What you choose, changes what he does and how he feels instantly.

Unlike other interactive content you might be familiar with, like quizzes or generators, you’re not the only one affected by what you choose.

In many ways, you become a puppet master in Stefan’s life and you are responsible for his well-being or lack thereof.

It’s a gripping (and frankly, trippy) experience that makes you look inward and question your motives and logic as you choose.

As marketers, we know that this kind of emotional resonance is crucial in message delivery.

It’s this connection that makes the impact and message of Bandersnatch linger. 

Not happy with how things ended?

Like any good video game, Bandersnatch gives you “another life” in the ability to go back and change your answer to see if/how the story will play out differently.

This is a genius play by the creators to keep watchers engaged and on-screen even long after they’ve reached “the end.”

There are five main endings to the story with slight variations and a bonus Easter egg scene after the credits that can keep viewers around for hours.

These storylines and the overall unique format of the film have led to a great deal of discussion on social media, proving once again if your content is good, people will talk about it.

Where It Came Up Short

I know what you’re thinking — “Come on, Ramona. It can’t all be good” -- and you’re right.

My only major qualm with the Black Mirror film is the user experience.

From a functionality standpoint, Bandersnatch made one cardinal mistake of not being completely responsive.

When I initially went to watch the film on my smart TV, I was met with a 2-minute trailer saying that it wasn’t available on my device.

I then took to my iPhone and attempted to cast the film to my TV and was met with the same message.

Eventually, I was able to stream on my laptop, but this friction almost lost me along the way.

As marketers, we preach mobile optimization and making sure your website/content offer the best experience possible on every device and browser — unfortunately, Bandersnatch doesn’t do that.

I can understand this would be difficult and require new functionality from the Netflix platform in some instances, but this was extremely frustrating as a viewer.

Think about it.

If you create a popular, must-see piece of content and someone goes through the effort of finding it only to be told they can’t consume it, it’s likely to leave a sour taste in their mouth.

When creating your content, make sure you make it as accessible as possible. 

What Can Marketers Learn?

So, why am I rambling about my latest Netflix binge?

Well, friends, because this is arguably the future of content marketing and storytelling in general.

As a digital marketer, I know it seems far-fetched to create an interactive piece of the caliber, but that’s where Bandersnatch serves as a perfect example of the high-quality product that can still exist within limitations.

While some have argued the choices users make in the film are insignificant and in turn, unimpressive, this is necessary when trying to deliver a message and when done skillfully, can still be extremely delightful to users.

Take inspiration from Black Mirror and consider using interactive elements to make more your content more engaging in 2019. The more immersive the experience and resonating your message, the more likely your audience will be to not only share it but remember it.

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