5 Marketing Lessons From “Now You See Me”

Now You See Me
Image credit: MajorSpoilers.com

The movie “Now You See Me” opened this Thursday with a stellar line-up with big names such as Morgan Freeman and Jesse Eisenberg of “Social Network” fame. The well-paced plot was always one step ahead of the audience, keeping them from guessing the movie before its fruition, leading up to an unexpected twist for the clincher. Spoiler alert!

What caught my eye though, were the lessons that we can draw out from this movie. There is much marketing departments can learn about Marketing from “Now You See Me” in order to stay ahead of the pack and come out winning.

1. Your Consumers Want to Believe

The movie starts off brilliantly: by tricking YOU – the audience in the theatre.  You are drawn into the movie like a moth to the fire.  You want to know what’s behind the trick, but a part of you wants to believe that it’s magic.

This refrain is echoed multiple times throughout the movie as the movie brings us from Las Vegas into a bank vault.  We yearn to know what the trick is about, but we all secretly hope that it can really happen. We all want to believe in magic.

It’s the same for our products.  Consumers want to believe that what they are buying is the best they can get for what they are paying for (hence the allure of Apple).

Author of Marketing Myopia, Theodore Levitt, once said that people don’t buy quarter-inch drills; they buy quarter-inch holes. Marketers don’t simply sell products.  We sell dreams.

Lesson: Find out what your customers are really buying, and connect with them.  Sell them what they want.  Even better, surprise them with what they didn’t know they want.

2. Stay In The Character of Your Brand

Somewhere in the middle of the movie, the police almost catch up with the magicians, and we finally see their real personas through the tiny crack as they escape. On-stage though, the magicians carry on the show as if nothing razzled them. They are in character, and in control.

Linked to the first lesson, the most important thing any business or product can have is its brand. It is the promise that you are making to your customer and the dream that you are selling. Nothing should come in the way of that.

The most successful companies know what they stand for, and easily come to mind in conversations when we talk about these traits.

Innovation? Apple. 3M.

Lowest price? Walmart. Daiso.

Search? Google.

Lesson: Own your promise, claim what you do best for yourself, and make sure that you become the best in what you do as a company or product. That’s the only way your brand will stick in the consumers’ minds.

This means having the discipline to not start doing what you are not too. This is also the reason why it is notoriously difficult to rebrand a company (think Microsoft).

3. Use Technology To Help You

For their final act in New York, the magicians had a little help from 3D projection mapping to round up their act.

Personally, it’s my favourite scene in the entire movie because it just brings about a suspension of belief even more. A whole building is transformed into your canvas. This technology has already been used to raise rap artistes from the dead.

Check out how Chevrolet used it to create the World’s Largest Claw Game and promote the Chevy Sonic:

Technology – any form of it – can be used to enhance the brand experience and delight the customer.  Chevrolet does a good job by involving the customer in the game rather than just showing off a great projection at the side of a building.

Social media is also one such technology that most companies are grappling with now.  Most are doing it wrong by simply setting up social media channels and hiving it off to a digital agency without bothering what happens to it.

Lesson: Find ways to make any technology an extension of your brand rather than it standing alone.  When the technology is part of your normal operations, it becomes credible and sustainable.

4. “The closer you look, the less you see”

The movie starts out with Eisenberg’s character telling the audience that look so closely that they won’t see the bigger picture.  The entire movie also becomes a play at misdirection to make sure that you do not connect the dots and guess the ending.

In business, however, it is truly easy to fall into this trap of going from one launch event to another without looking at the bigger picture.

How does each event connect the dot for the consumer?
How does each event add to the experience of the brand?
How should we change our strategy to react to market realities and competitive action?

These are all things to think about whilst carrying out day-to-day operations of the business.

Lesson: Have situational awareness even as you go about business-as-usual, so that you won’t be left fumbling when things go south.

5. Plan Ahead

The last and what I feel is the most important lesson, is to PLAN. The protagonist (shan’t divulge who!) planned the whole magic show decades before it came to pass. He planned it to such detail and committed so much resources in the planning that he was always 2 steps ahead of everyone else.

It is therefore not just important to plan, but also to plan holistically. You need to know what you are going to do 5 years ahead, 10 years ahead, so that you can start preparing NOW.  The key is to be able to tell your competitors, “Now You See Me…”

A lot of the technologies that we see today existed decades ago, but are only being capitalised now because companies had a vision for what these technologies could do, and executed it.

Take for example, the iPhone. Apple produced the failed Apple Newton in 1987 when CEO John Scully had a vision of having people having personal digital assistants on their hands. Of course, we know by now that the Newton was a huge failure. This, however, helped in the development of the iPhone when Jobs was back at Apple.

This is also a lesson in perseverance and waiting for the right moment for the great unveil. It all pays off when everything goes according to plan and runs to a tee.

Lesson: Plan holistically and consider all angles so that you are always ahead of the game. Know what is crucial, and what factors can be compromised if needed.


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