5 Marketing Lessons Gleaned from Gone Girl

Last night I went to see the movie Gone Girl for the second time in the same number of weeks. I thoroughly enjoyed the book and felt that the adaptation of the movie was superb. That said, I am not writing this post to review a movie—I am writing this post to describe a few of the marketing lessons that I gleaned from the film.

Please know that there will be SPOILERS in this blog, so if you don’t want to know what happens, don’t keep reading.

All right, now that that’s out of the way, let’s get started. The movie Gone Girl was an extremely dark flick with one of the creepiest characters that I have watched in the last couple of years. In fact, each time I hear the story of Amy Elliot Dunne I feel more repulsed by her psychosis than the last. That being said, the marketer in me felt like taking a few notes during the movie.

No, those notes were not about how to frame a man for murder (just in case my man-friend is reading this), but instead about how to successfully carry out a plan—in this case, a marketing plan. The two may seem like completely opposite goals, however, I assure you there is a point.

Here are the five lessons I have assembled.

1. Do your research.

Anyone who has written a marketing plan knows that you can’t make random guesses and hope to come out with a compelling plan. You must diligently do research on the market, your competitors, your audience, etc. In Gone Girl, viewers are given a glimpse into the extraordinary research that Amy put into framing her husband for murder. She read books about murder, watched shows about husbands that killed their wives, and did research on the internet. It took real planning and effort, which leads to my next point.

2.  Don’t rush it.

In the movie, Amy spends a good part of a year slowly and meticulously laying the groundwork for her crime. I mean, she wrote 300 entries in a fake diary for goodness sake. She was not in any hurry and was determined to do everything right. For me, this is an important lesson in the marketing world. Similar to the first point, if you just throw a marketing initiative together and don’t thoroughly plan out the reasoning and components, you run the risk of throwing everything off.

3.  Reputation is everything.

In the movie, when Amy shows up at Desi’s lake house he says that they should go to the police, but she claims she cannot return because people would know she faked her own death and that would make her a pariah. At another point, after Amy returns, Nick is threatening to leave her after all that she has done to him. She says, coldly, “Your wife is kidnapped, raped, and breaks free to return to her husband… and he leaves her? They’ll crucify you.” Although these are extremely creepy circumstances, Amy makes a valid point—you’re nothing without your reputation. This is especially true in today’s world — think about the way social media absolutely slaughters any company that makes a misstep. Even worse, if you go against your brand or do something to harm your reputation, your customers could decide to purchase your product or services elsewhere. Think about the old adage, “It takes 20 years to build a reputation, and 5 minutes to ruin it.” This is an extraordinary truth in the marketing world.

4. Laying the groundwork can take years.

I know this will sound creepy, but in Gone Girl it almost seems that Amy has been laying the groundwork for this crime for longer than she had even known she would commit it. Years before she even met her husband she was setting up Desi as a mentally unstable stalker and Tommy as a rapist. Each of these things helped create a reasonable amount of groundwork for her case. In the same way, marketing is not always something that you can snap your fingers and make happen. Sure, a coupon may make a sale that day, but to attract a life-long customer, you have to start presenting your case long before they even know that they need you.

5. Be able to adapt – and quickly.

In Gone Girl, when Amy begins her plan, she has no desire to return to Nick. However, when she sees him on TV pleading with her to come home, she sees a better option and alters her plan. This is so important in marketing. Even though planning and researching is extremely valuable, when something goes wrong or a better option presents itself, it is imperative to be able to adapt. The world of marketing is always moving and changing, and being stagnant is quite possibly one of the worst things a marketer can do.

There are probably a million other lessons that one could pull out of the movie Gone Girl—both professionally and personally—but for now, I’ll leave it at that. Now I’m interested in hearing from you. Do you agree or disagree with these thoughts? Do you have others to add? Let me know!