Let us begin by addressing the obvious fact that Star Wars definitely has a leg (or two) up on many of the films being released into today’s audiences. The unique series has had a strong following since the very first film in the series, Star Wars, which would later be subtitled Episode IV: A New Hope. The epic film, released by 20th Century Fox on May 25, 1977, was an instant hit, and became a worldwide pop culture phenomenon long before social media even existed.
And so began the making of the original Star Wars trilogy, which also included the extremely successful sequels, The Empire Strikes Back (1980) and Return of the Jedi (1983). Here we are, almost 40 years later, and Star Wars: The Force Awakens, the seventh major film in the Star Wars movie franchise, shatters numerous records worldwide. In fact, Star Wars: The Force Awakens holds more records than any other film.
There are so many things that can be learned from the film’s historic success that we couldn’t begin to list them all. Here are just a few of the lessons Marketers can learn from Star Wars:
1. Understanding Your Target Market to Ensure Success
In order to connect with your audience and to encourage engagement, you’ve absolutely got to have an emotional connection with your community. If there’s one thing Star Wars fans enjoy, it’s coming up with in-depth theories about each of the characters’ lives. Because the main characters show up in almost all of the films in the series, theorizing about characters has become a popular pastime for fans, and one that they’ve become emotionally invested in.
If your audience is emotionally invested in your products and services, and more importantly, your story, they will automatically want to share your content, or even create their own on your behalf. The Star Wars movies hit this nail right on the head with each episode.
Lesson Learned: If you haven’t figured out what your target market cares about yet, you might want to get on that, stat.
2. How to Achieve Social Media Success
It would be an understatement to say that the latest Star Wars film was “wildly successful” on social media. From clever memes to teasers and trailers, and beyond, the sheer volume of content being shared across social media leading up to and after the movie’s release was absolutely remarkable. There were numerous trends flooding the Internet, including “May the 4th be with you”, “Force Friday”, “Force for Change”, and many more, all of which had gone viral within a short period of time.
By listening to what people were saying about the movie, and the products associated with it, the film’s advertising and marketing teams were able to learn what was working and what wasn’t, and then adjusted accordingly. In addition to listening to what others were saying, marketers took the initiative to start conversations themselves, allowing them to take control and to direct the audience’s focus where they wanted it.
Lesson Learned: Pay attention to what people are saying about your business, and then join the conversation.
3. Maintaining Your Reputation in the Face of a Crisis
While the film went over extremely well with the majority of viewers, there were still many who felt strongly that it was a complete repeat of the very first movie. In fact, most of the negative reviews were centered around this opinion. J. J. Abrams’s response to those who felt the film was a rip-off was both genuine and passionate. “What was important for me was introducing brand new characters using relationships that were embracing the history that we know to tell a story that is new — to go backwards to go forwards.”
There was also a pretty big uproar about the new female lead, Rey, being blatantly excluded from the latest Star Wars toys. The outrage at the lack of her character in the Star Wars Monopoly game went so far as to prompt the creation of the hashtag #wheresrey. This could have been a huge #fail for Hasbro, but they responded quickly, and made a promise to include her characters in the future, which seemed to keep the issue from spiraling out of control.
Lesson Learned: Never underestimate the expectations of your audience. Address their concerns and complaints as best you can, and learn what you can from the experience.
4. How to Keep Your Audience's Interest
By varying the forms of content presented using text, images, video, music and more, the film was able to reuse similar content through different mediums, and also keep viewers’ attention for longer. Using of these forms of content, even if the overall message is the same, is a great way to reach an audience without boring them to death. For example, a great blog post could turn into a dynamic video script, and an in-depth article could be used to create a powerful infographic.
Although there was a constant flow of images, videos and other promotional material being presented to the film’s target market, marketers were careful not to share too much. There were so many questions left unanswered prior to the release of the film, leaving fans with a huge element of mystery right up until they saw the film.
Lesson Learned: Leave your audience always wanting more. Give them something to think about, and make them wait for the answers.
5. The Importance of Building a Strategic Marketing Campaign
In addition to being a social media success, the film was extremely well promoted across a variety of platforms, including digital marketing, print advertising, event marketing, and more. It’s clear that a significant amount of time and effort was spent building a strategic marketing campaign.
The film even teamed up with a variety of different business partners, including Duracell, Campbell's, Dodge, Kraft and CoverGirl, and more, so that even consumers who weren’t long-time Star Wars fans would even catch the buzz. (Needless to say; it worked.) From t-shirts and books, to backpacks and action figures, there was a product available for almost every consumer. With so many film-related products available prior to the movie’s release, it was almost impossible not to be even the slightest bit interested in all the hype.
Lesson Learned: Form partnerships whenever possible, and don’t be afraid to surprise people. You just might catch the attention of a whole new market.
May the force be with you and your marketing team throughout 2016!