Subscription: the perfect business model

A lot has happened to J and me over the last couple of years, from job changes to buying a house a little over a year ago. We do exemplify the not-yet-quite-moved in cliche of having boxes still unpacked. And (until recently) we never even bothered to hook up the DVD player after moving.

But one thing has been constant through all this change: Netflix automatically billing our credit card every month for the option to watch DVDs. Truly, there could be no more perfect business model than this — charging a credit card for nothing, month after month. (I’m sure this is something gyms have been onto for years, with paying non-customers outnumbering paying customers).

Interesting question though: if you’re running a business like Netflix, how do you want to market it? You want super-high visibility advertising to get people to sign up as you grow, but after they’re signed, you probably want to be entirely forgotten about… If you could somehow arrange to target non-customers only, that would be perfect. If you must be visible to current customers, be as forgettable as possible — I’m thinking some kind of incredibly generic and wispy logo, preferably in dark gray on light gray, with a catchy slogan like “Oh never mind, it’s really not that important…”. Or really sexual ads, just to get you thinking about something other than Netflix.

Or how about contracting with a third-party service to target customers directly, with no Netflix branding, with direct-mail reminders of all the other things they should be taking care of? “Cleaned your gutters lately? Written your Mom? (I’m sure she’d like to hear from you.) Thought about tax season yet? Etc.”, as “Cancelling Netflix” slips further and further down the todo list, never to rise again. Yeah, that’s the ticket.

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