5 Lessons Email Marketers Can Learn from Captain Marvel
Carol Danvers endures a lot of heartache in the film Captain Marvel. In the process of becoming a superhero, she is abducted by an alien race, has her memory altered, and is bullied by the Supreme Intelligence (who takes the form of Dr. Wendy Lawson, a.k.a. Mar-Vell).
Such is the hero’s journey, from the ordinary world to a special world and back again. Marketers might feel twinges of recognition at Danvers’ journey. They, too, need to penetrate the inner sanctum of the consumer world to gain insight and bring something of value back to their target customer. They might also learn a few things from Danvers’ experience, lessons that can be applied to their own daily machinations.
The following are five key lessons Captain Marvel learns during the course of the film that marketers can apply to their world:
Try, Try Again.
From childhood, Danvers tries and fails at multiple things. She falls off her bike, crashes a go-kart, and downs an experimental aircraft. But every time, she gets right back up and tries again. Email marketers need to accept that mistakes happen and that any company can occasionally screw up badly enough to require the dreaded “Oops” follow-up. But when a mistake does happen, marketers should take a lesson from Carol and try again, rather than playing it safe to avoid a repeat occurrence.
When a mistake happens, be proactive and upfront about it. Address the problem directly and honestly, even if it’s unclear of how or where the mistake originated. A good example of being proactive and getting ahead of an Oops comes from Capital One Eno. The company detected two identical credit card charges from the same retailer, occurring at exactly the same time. But rather than waiting for the customer to dispute the duplicate, or wasting time blaming the retailer, the unusual card activity triggered an email asking the customer to confirm whether the second charge was an error. If your credit card company sends you an email with the subject line, “It looks like you were charged twice,” you’re going to open it immediately. That’s what we call phenomenal customer experience.
Be a Trailblazer!
Before becoming Captain Marvel, Carol was a fighter pilot. A female fighter pilot. In 1989. She was blazing new trails long before she acquired any powers. Marketers would do well to remember that some of the highest performing email campaigns are often the result of abandoning the status quo and taking a chance on an innovative idea. For instance, Honda provides new customers with a link to a personalized web page. Also included are links to full instructions – some with video – on how to get started with specific features, which beats the heck out of searching through a 900+ page owners’ manual.
Ask For Help.
Even Captain Marvel can’t do it alone. She enlists the help of a pre-Avengers Nick Fury, old friend and fellow fighter pilot Maria Rambaugh (pronounced Rambo—get it?), Talos the Skrull, and Goose the cat/Flerkin. Similarly, to create great emails, marketers need to collaborate with great designers, copywriters, and developers. Check out how a creative art department helped make this email, from online investment management firm WealthSimple, into something beautiful enough to share with friends.
Make Good Use of the Right Tools.
Captain Marvel uses her powers, of course, but when a great tool can help, she doesn’t hesitate to put it to use. She McGyvers a 90’s era pager to communicate with aliens in space; she heists a motorcycle and later an old cargo plane to escape the bad guys and find Maria, and she uses a computer with a dial-up modem to access the Internet.
Similarly, good emails need good tools for building, testing, analyzing, planning, deploying, and more. There’s no way to know exactly what tool (or tools) Wayfair is using for this email but they’re using it extremely well. That ‘You Might Also Need’ list is personalized based on both the current purchase and on recently browsed product categories, making the customer feel both known and appreciated.
Humor is a Distraction… But Use it Anyway.
In the training scene at the beginning of the movie, Yon-Rogg tells Vers that humor is a distraction. But Carol keeps her sense of humor anyway — and she still defeats Yon-Rogg. Just one example: When Korath tells her he found being simmed by a Skrull disturbing because, “I stared into the face of my mortal enemy, and the face staring back was my own,” Carol retorts, “Maybe if you were more attractive, then it would be less disturbing.”
When used appropriately, in ways that suit your brand personality, humor can serve you extremely well. Humor can help you engage your customers on a human level, creating a genuine connection. But be careful of when, where, and how you try to interject a laugh — as any veteran email marketer will tell you, when poorly timed or badly executed, a joke can just as easily alienate. A great example is this email from All Birds, hitting just the right note with a play-on-words and a dancing sheep that are both fun while remaining perfectly on-brand.
These are just a few of the lessons marketers can glean from Captain Marvel. Being more like Carol Danvers has few downsides, so don’t be afraid to take some risks, use great tools, ask for help when you need it, and connect with your customers over a chuckle now and then. As Carol says, aim, “Higher, further, faster, baby.”