Two by two by two by two

Only Connect: Step this way, into the Matrix

My name is Jeremy , and I have an addiction to 2 x 2 matrices.

We hear about curious phobias but fetishes are far more fun, and mine is a pleasurable frisson when I see two buildings which are separated but have a relationship.  Imagine two McDonalds on opposite sides of a road, or two garages across a highway.  I like to imagine the staff from one building popping over to the other for more supplies via a connecting tunnel or by nipping over the road.

Dwell on this scenario for too long and I’d morph into a lascivious perv, like Vic Reeves rubbing his thighs in Shooting Stars.

This fetish can enliven an otherwise dull motorway journey (and is entirely benign, let me emphasise this), and I would keep it to myself except for one reason: my love of 2×2 matrices and their essential majesty stems from the same source. And I’d like you to join my circle of 2×2 love.

We’ll apply the matrix to a TV programme (*I’m starting to feel warm*)

First, what exactly am I talking about here?

This graphical device involves mapping a population or group of entities across two intersecting dimensions, and the four quartiles that they create. So the ones on one side of the vertical axis have something in common with each other, but are divided by the horizontal axis, like separate but connected buildings.  It’s a deceptively simple format, and creates 4 pairs of relationships. And even the diagonals have something going for them.  It’s bloody beautiful.

Obviously we all like these 2 x 2 things, they’re very popular, but I want to be clear here: you may like them, but I’d like one tattooed onto my chest, like Hester Prynne’s scarlet letter, or Harry Styles’ butterfly.

A segmentation that helps

Look at this matrix (by James Heskett and others) which shows how customers segment, based on how much they like a company’s products and how loyal they are.  I’ve drawn it by hand, because these things lend themselves to back of the envelope renderings.

Map reduxSo simple, but so clever. If you are a marketer, a hostage feels compelled to buy your product but doesn’t derive any particular pleasure from it – it’s enforced loyalty. A mercenary enjoys what you do but would jump ship to your competitors without so much as a by your leave: it’s a temporary arrangement that suits them at the moment.

The Apostles like you and feel loyal to what you are selling. Their opposite… the defectors are customers who feel no loyalty or feelings either way (I said ‘dislike’ in the drawing – that may be over-stating it).  In recent years we’ve been encouraged to think of customers as apostles (the fans and followers of social media myth) but seeing how their relationship to your company is akin to a mercenary or hostage brings your wider market to life and suggests appropriate marketing strategies.

The fact is, your fans (apostles) are just one of four important consumer segments. They all matter.  It’s a vital truth, (confirmed by marketing scientists such as the Ehrenberg-Bass Institute, and the IPA, and by creative people such as Martin Weigel) but is often ignored.  Isn’t it more fun to think of consumers as mercenaries and hostages than as desperate fans?

A simple chart but so helpful. Look at what each pair has in common, and what keeps them apart.  And it’s fluid…. people move from one to the other (and people not covered by the segmentation – non-users – may suddenly arrive, in any quadrant).

TV viewers are like this.

They may feel compelled by their friends or housemates to watch programmes they don’t much like, or they love a programme one week but don’t bother to watch the next episode…  or they aren’t loyal and don’t like it either but still watch (yes, really. Follow the hashtag #Xfactor on Saturday evening..)

Family Structure: a matrix that doesn’t work

What about this matrix describing a nuclear family?  It’s balanced, with axes based on gender and parent or child, but it’s hopeless: failing to describe most families (parents with two sons/daughters, or only one child, single parents households, transgender etc etc).  More important, the relationships on the diagonals are as important as any others and the whole matters more than the demarcations.

We’ll come back to this later.

David McCandless, watch out, there's a new visualisation sheriff in town

David McCandless, watch out, there’s a new visualisation sheriff in town


A simple map to understand TV audiences

What has this got to do with TV audiences?  Consider this graphic.


Two-part drama reduxWe often talk about ‘viewers of a programme‘.  And there are the people who didn’t watch it: non-viewers.  But viewers come and go.  Even for a two-part programme with similar numbers of viewers to each part (e.g. James Rhodes’ excellent but under-viewed Don’t Stop the Music) only half the viewers to the first episode will watch the second one, and half won’t.  So of the total crowd of viewers, only a third (or fewer) would watch both episodes. It feels very few (in fact for at least a week this blog said it was 50%).

The relationship between the lapsed and late viewers is curious is it not.  Both are happy to watch part of a programme, but they are behaviourally quite different – two halves of a tag-team.  The map illustrates their relationship – it challenges our preconception about loyalty – which is a rare commodity and too much to expect for most viewers.


Mapping strategies for particular programmes and timeslot: Only Connect

Programme strategy 0914That first matrix about customers applies very well to TV.  Every TV programme has apostles among its viewers, but most will fit the other segments and that cannot be changed.  That’s just how we are – indifferent, or driven by contextual or social factors.

It’s 8.30 on Monday night and Only Connect is on

Only Connect, a quiz built on finding connections between four things…

Imagine the fictional (but for the purposes of our example helpful), family described in the earlier matrix.

The dad (apostle) is a loyal viewer to Only Connect because he fancies Victoria Coren (join the queue…) and makes a point to watch each week.

His wife (mercenary) enjoys getting the questions right and if it’s on anyway

The children like to hang out in the living room – the daughter (defector) is doing homework in the corner and not paying much attention.

The son (hostage) would rather watch Gadget Man on Channel 4 which is on at the same time, but by remaining in the room and putting up with Only Connect (and there’s something about the host that he can’t yet articulate…) he can negotiate watching Gadget Man on catch-up straight after on the DTR…  At which point each family member switches into a different segment, and again with Celebrity Juice a little later.

Programme marketers and television executives can live with this indifference and lack of loyalty, or they can try to migrate viewers towards the sunlit uplands in the top right quadrant.

To move the bottom two segments (who aren’t fussed about the programme) UP into the upper quadrants, you have to improve the programme or sell it more effectively.  This might mean investing in the show to create more appreciation among the hostages (right-hand side) or by marketing it more effectively to boost its prominence in the heads of the defectors (left-hand).

To create loyalty where little exists (that is, moving viewers from the left side to the right), you have to find out what need state the programme can offer and focus on delivering that.  Behavioural science has taught us about the power of habit so if they already watch without being loyal then you can try to create a learned behaviour through sympathetic scheduling.  This will differ whether it’s a nightly news programme or a weekly drama, but creating the sense of an event at a particular time might help. The BBC is doing all of these things very effectively with Only Connect.

Promoting video on demand (watch when you like…) might suit some apostles, but can undermine this sense of the live occasion and risk converting hostages into defectors, and apostles into mercenaries, which is the opposite of what we want (see me for more ideas on this).  You need only imagine the disastrous effect on viewing to Only Connect in the family described above of encouraging the father to indulge his passion for Victoria Coren on a laptop on his own – he would be the only one of the four watching.


Goodness this is all very exciting… can you feel it, the 2 x 2 love?  I’m feeling it.

If this excursion into the 2 x 2 matrix has interested you, contact me and we can talk about it in adjacent motorway service stations. 

I’d love that.



*(Yes, I hear you say, what about Venn diagrams.  They are altogether less angular and more bosomy, but no no NO.  They’re nice enough, but they’re fascist – all about favouring the ones in the cross-over (the in-crowd) and excluding the ones outside.  2×2 matrices may look a little like swastikas but they don’t carry this illiberal tone).

OK, you want to see a more beautiful graphic?  Try this book: