How GetGlue Taps Into Our Emotions As We Watch TV

I’ll be the first to admit it, I checked in on GetGlue last night when I was watching Man Men and yes, I did get a badge. I got the “Must See” sticker. Then, I checked in on GetGlue when I started watching the season five opener for Dexter and I got the “Season Five Premiere” sticker. I’m not sure how emotional I am about my TV watching… wait a minute… who are I kidding… I’m VERY emotional about what I watch on TV. But to be honest, I check-in to get the badges and stickers because I am competitive as I am emotional.

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Sometimes a successful web product takes a while to find its niche. Occasionally it morphs into a different product altogether, along the way. Both things have happened to GetGlue, the service where users “check in” to watching TV shows, reading books, listening to music – indeed, to just about anything.

I caught up with GetGlue founder and CEO Alex Iskold to discuss the evolution of the product since its inception. It’s changed from an under-used geeky Firefox browser add-on, to a mainstream service where hundreds of thousands of people check-in to Mad Men and other popular entertainment shows. How has GetGlue made this transition? One word, by getting emotional.

What’s more, the changes have been good for GetGlue. It has experienced strong growth this year. Iskold told me that “in the month of August alone we saw over 8 million ratings and check-ins.” That’s about 300,000 ratings and check-ins every day. GetGlue currently has over 600,000 users and is, according to Iskold, riding “an upward trend in the social entertainment market.”

People Get Emotional About Entertainment

“The big insight was that [the product] needs to be emotional.”

GetGlue changed its branding and launched a new website,, last November. It changed almost overnight from a geeky browser add-on called Blue Organizer to a destination website called GetGlue. Mobile applications followed soon after.

“Once we launched the website,” Iskold told me, “it made a world of a difference and ever since [we’ve had] exponential growth that continues to increase.”

It wasn’t until the re-launch that Iskold and company realized that their core users are emotional about the things that they’re watching on TV and the things they’re consuming.

“It was because we kind of stood back and said, what we need to do is create something that will be a fit for entertainment. The big insight was that it needs to be emotional. Our users are really emotional about GetGlue and about their entertainment – so that strikes the chord with them. That was a big turn around for us.”


Execution Has Become as Important as the Big Idea.

Anybody can have a good idea… but… how will you pull it off and how will you stand out from all the rest?

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It’s long been part of the conventional wisdom in the ad world that a good idea trumps a good execution. After all, the idea alone should be enough to carry the day.

For the sake of clarity, let me define what I mean by “idea” and “execution.” An “idea” (in the vernacular of ad purists) is what Ted Bates called the “unique selling proposition” — ideally, the one notion you want the consumer to associate with the product. The execution is the art direction, copywriting, film technique, etc., that bring that idea to life. The argument runs that if the idea is strong enough, then an ugly typeface or not-overly-clever commercial will not be able to diminish its power.

That theory worked well when (a) consumers did not have direct access to a product and (b) were exposed to the idea via mass media on a regular basis. But when those conditions no longer exist, execution takes on a more pivotal role. It’s what helps us distinguish one product (or website) representing a larger idea from another.

To wit: There are countless sites that provide cooking recipes. It’s the how — the execution of the site, and how it looks and feels and handles — that determines the difference between success and failure, between a user staying on the site or moving on.

You can think of websites in the same vein as retail. Most of the “ideas” are not that unique. There are lots of stores that sell midprice jeans and khakis, but something about the way the Gap executed that idea enabled it to stand out from the pack. Ditto Pottery Barn: Lots of stores sell country style furniture, but Pottery Barn became a global phenomenon because of the way it executed that concept, making it a lifestyle rather than a purchase.

How this plays out in the digital realm can be seen by looking at some of the winners in the first annual Hive Awards for the Unsung Heroes of the Internet (a show I started this year in conjunction with the fine folks at International Award Group).

Take, which took home a prize for best web application. TripIt does what any number of other sites do or attempt to do: organizes all of your travel plans in one spot. But it’s the execution — the way it does this — that’s made it so popular. There’s no learning curve to the site; everything is incredibly intuitive and it’s clearly designed with the user’s convenience in mind.

TripIt is also social: You can share your travel plans with friends, coworkers and family members, thus making coordinating plans even simpler. Here again, it’s not so much that they’ve made the site social; it’s how they’ve done it, in a nonintrusive way that doesn’t put the onus on the user to figure out what’s going on.