7 Marketing Lessons That Can Be Learned From A Wrinkle in Time

Opinion: Look for clues from the world around you to expand the way you interact on social

A Wrinkle in Time is filled with tweetable sound bites from all of the characters SrdjanPav/iStock

As a marketer, I view life through a unique lens. When I see ads, I’m constantly critiquing them, thinking about the concept behind the campaign, what I like and what I’d do differently—and most important, what I can take away for my own leanings.

This is a hard switch to turn off, so when I recently saw A Wrinkle in Time with Digital Megaphone Marketing Council members Steph Casstevens and Ryan Zieman, the lessons were popping off the screen for all of us.

A Wrinkle in Time is a science-fiction novel by Madeleine L’Engle. First published in 1962, the story centers around Meg Murry, a gifted yet awkward teenager with scientist parents.

Disney’s 2018 groundbreaking adaptation is led by Ava DuVernay, the first African-American woman to direct a movie with a budget over $100 million. DuVernay is breaking barriers with the purposeful casting of a diverse set of actors in iconic roles

As the movie begins, we learn that Meg’s father has been missing for four years. Meg—along with her equally gifted younger brother, Charles Wallace; her friend, Calvin O’Keefe; and three well-meaning astral travelers sent to help them, Mrs. Which (Oprah Winfrey), Mrs. Who (Mindy Kaling) and Mrs. Whatsit (Reese Witherspoon)—sets off on an intergalactic adventure to save her father.

Here are a few of the lessons we took away from the movie that we all, as marketers, can use every day:

Personally thank your customers

Before the first scene, DuVernay introduces the film, facing the audience in a simple one-camera shot. She looks as if she’s talking to us as she expresses gratitude to the team responsible for creating the movie as well everyone in the theater.

This simple, personal intro left us with the warm feeling that we are part of the moviemaking process and the film’s success.

Take time to make your customers feel like they are part of the process. It doesn’t need to be fancy: It just needs to be authentic. Host a Facebook Live video featuring a company executive thanking customers and answering questions, or start responding to every tweet or comment on Facebook and Instagram.

We are lucky that we live in a world where brands and customers can communicate one on one. That personal interaction goes a long way in building customer loyalty.

The power of women, children and diversity is here to stay

With A Wrinkle in Time’s successful opening weekend of more than $33 million at the box office and Black Panther surpassing a staggering $1 billion in ticket sales, it’s evident that the impact of movies that feature women, children and diversity is powerful.

Portraying and honoring these groups as the smart and passionate people they are is a potent marketing tool.

While women, children and minorities can be a brand’s biggest advocates, they can also be the biggest thorn in a brand’s side when they feel belittled or disrespected.

Remember the “Bic for Her” pen, or, more recently, Johnnie Walker’s Jane Walker campaign?

Both were deservedly slammed for failing to create a message that resonated with women. Johnnie Walker had great intentions with its Jane Walker campaign, but the idea fell flat with the message from the public-relations team that, “Scotch as a category is seen as particularly intimidating by women. It’s a really exciting opportunity to invite women into the brand.”

Right out of the gate, Jonnie Walker called women weak. A more empowering message would have been: “Women have been sipping scotch for years. It’s time to give them the credit they deserve.”

Mattel’s Barbie is a great example of a brand that honors women, children and minorities in a way that lifts them up and inspires them. The company recently released dolls based on heroines like Frida Kahlo, Amelia Earhart, Katherine Johnson and Chloe Kim with the message, “Barbie is committed to shining a light on empowering role models past and present in an effort to inspire more girls.”

If you are going to create a campaign centered around a diverse audience, make sure to include them in the process. Also, make sure it’s a natural extension of your brand, as opposed to forcing something for the sake of ticking inclusion off your to do list.

Create sharable moments

A Wrinkle in Time is filled with tweetable sound bites from all of the characters, especially from Mrs. Who, who loves to share notable words of wisdom.

Winfrey herself, as well as The Oprah Winfrey Network’s Super Soul Sunday, are famous for their tweetable moments. Most Sundays, #SuperSoulSunday is a trending hashtag with tweets filled with inspiration from Winfrey and her guests.

Starbucks posted a picture launching its Unicorn Frappuccino that got 175,000 reactions and 50,000 shares, causing a huge demand for the drink and leading thousands of customers to share their Unicorn frap pictures on social.

Quotes, memes and gorgeous images are all highly sharable bits of content. Check out this article for inspiration from the 22 most engaging pieces of brand content from 2017.

Know when to ask for help and leverage your tribe

After Meg, Charles Wallace and Calvin flew around the sky with Mrs. Whatsit and saw the ominous IT, they realized that they were in over their heads. Mrs. Whatsit decided it was time to visit the Happy Medium for guidance. While there, Meg had trouble tapping into her insight, and Mrs. Which was there to help.

This added insight was just what the team needed to get to the next step in its adventure.

As marketers, we sometimes need a lifeline, too. Rapidly changing rules by the major social networks and search engines, coupled with the fast-paced nature and related stress of being on display 24/7, make it important to have community members we can learn from and reach out to for assistance.

There are several ways to stay connected, reach out for help and keep your digital marketing skills up to date. For example, you could take advantage of the large number of events most cities offer through local and national marketing organizations, access the fantastic Social Media Managers group on Facebook or regularly read publications like Adweek that share information about the latest industry innovation and news to help stay on top of the latest changes.

Earn people’s trust

Although Meg wasn’t trusting by nature, once a lucky few earned her trust, she remained loyal to them. On the other end of the spectrum, Charles Wallace was too trusting, which resulted in him being sucked into a trance by the IT when he looked into the eyes of the Man With Red Eyes.

Marketers need to build trust, and that takes time. Key steps to building consumers’ trust online include consistently interacting with your customers, practicing brand transparency and authentically admitting mistakes and missteps.

Don’t just use social channels as your brand’s personal billboard. Leverage the platforms for two-way conversations.

The social teams for Corner Bakery Café, Target and Wendy’s are all pros at interacting with their customers. They respond to every tweet, most of the time with personalized responses, much to the delight of their customers.

Kellogg is leading the way in customer transparency with its Open for Breakfast campaign. Senior director of consumer engagement Rick Wion explains, “In an era where consumers have more access to information, investing in trust is more important than ever before. They want to know what is in their food, how it is made and if the company that makes it is a good partner to the communities where it does business. At Kellogg we do this through our specialized web site, openforbreakfast.com, where we publish new stories each week about what we are doing to improve nutrition, support sustainability and give back to our communities.”

KFC issued a creative, well-received apology when it ran out of chicken in the U.K., rearranging its logo to FCK in a full-page ad.

These companies are not just talking to consumers; they’re inviting customers to talk back in innovative ways.

View things from your customers’ perspective

A Wrinkle in Time was shown from Meg’s perspective, and a large portion of the movie was shot from the perspective of a child: The camera was looking up at the adults in the movie, versus eye-to-eye.

Just as the movie is showing the child’s point of view, we need to keep our customers in mind when creating social campaigns.

Conduct polls and focus groups. Look at what your customers are sharing on social media about your products as well as competitors’ products. Look at customer complaints. All of this information is a treasure trove of data to help you improve and see how your product is impacting your audience.

Deliver a message your audience can understand

Alex Murry, Meg’s father, was excited beyond words that he had found a wrinkle in the universe. When he tried to explain this to his colleagues, they didn’t understand his message and wouldn’t back his project.

Alex’s message was an important one; his audience just wasn’t ready or able to understand what he was saying.

As marketers, we need to continually deliver a message that’s on a level our audience can understand. Using video, infographics and other visual tools—as well as intellectual tools, like humor and storytelling—are fantastic ways to break down complex topics.

One of my favorite Twitter accounts, @MerriamWebster, is brilliant at leveraging all of these as it helps its followers learn about the meaning of words and correct word usage:

Lessons that can help us become better marketers are all around us. Take the time today to implement one of these ideas or look for clues from the world around you to expand the way you interact on social.

Hope Bertram is the founder and CEO of educational event company Digital Megaphone.