When less really is more...

In the age of Netflix and Amazon Prime Video, a film subscription platform that offers just 30 movies, no Hollywood blockbusters and only films that you´ve probably never heard of couldn’t possibly compete, right?

Wrong.

MUBI is a small subscription-based film streaming platform that is proving a winner for its nearly 10 million members, including legendary film director Martin Scorsese.

MUBI targets independent, world and cult-film lovers with an eclectic, specially curated selection of movies, ranging from 1920s Soviet propaganda videos to 1970s Indian cinema classics.

I’m one of those independent, cult-film lovers, so I recently became a member. And soon into my first week as a MUBI subscriber I could not help but notice how MUBI cleverly utilises an array of key marketing insights.

From the website design to the intrinsic structure of its service, MUBI provides a masterclass in behavioural psychology applied to a marketing context. Here I highlight three insights that MUBI really understands:

1) Scarcity

As the acclaimed marketing and psychology professor, Robert B. Cialdini explains in his classic book Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion - we are more attracted to products with a limited availability.

MUBI utilises this insight expertly.

Every single day MUBI removes a film from the collection and replaces it with a new film. This inherently nudges MUBI subscribers to watch the movie that will soon be removed as the chances are, given the rarity of each film, they will never have a chance to see it again. This, along with the excitement of seeing what new film will be released, keeps subscribers coming back each and every day. Genius!

2) Decision paralysis

We´ve all opened up Netflix only to find ourselves flicking through a sea of options and twenty minutes later, crippled by the decision of what to watch.

This is a product of what behavioural economists label decision paralysis.

Faced with more options than we could ever realistically examine, we are often left in a state of mental paralysis with no idea of what to choose. Often, we end up making no decision at all.

With MUBI´s small, curated, collection of 30 films, this feeling of indecision disappears. As a result, it´s not only easier to pick what you watch, but you end up doing what you actually came to the site to do – watch a movie!

3) Minimum viable audience

One of the world´s most revered marketers, Seth Godin, routinely advocates catering your product around your minimum viable audience - the smallest possible group that can sustain your work. And that two things will happen when you delight this group:

1) You discover it’s a larger group than you expected

2) They tell other people

From the focused nature of MUBI´s film library, as well as its blog and social media feeds, it´s clear that MUBI knows exactly who they are serving. One look at MUBI´s Vision page confirms this:

“Our film library is brimming with visionary films that wouldn’t fill a single cinema in Belgium for a week – not even a day. But if you searched the world (all of it), you might just find an audience of a thousand for these rare cinematic treats. And we don’t think a thousand people should be ignored…”


The focus on this small group of 1000 has turned into 9,771,970 members, many of them enthusiastic brand advocates. I was told about MUBI by a friend and I have since told countless others. Because of MUBI´s clear vision and defined service, members know exactly who in their network of friends and acquaintances would probably like to join. In other words, they know exactly who to tell.

The cover image for this article is titled: “Movie” and has been supplied by João Lavinha. The original image has been cropped and a logo has been superimposed. The original image can be found here: https://www.flickr.com/hotos/joaolavinha/13976308104/in/photostream/

DMA Partners is a creative + communications agency working with corporations to develop communication that truly connects with their audience.

Contact: toby.carpenter@dma-partners.com

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