In twenty-nine days, I’ll be sitting in a theater with my dad, girlfriend and about 600 other fanatics, ravenously enjoying the latest entry in the Star Wars saga, The Force Awakens. It comes as no surprise that Episode VII might possibly be the most eagerly anticipated movie of our generation.
Many industry insiders are estimating Disney’s first Star Wars movie will smash a whole heap of box office records while entertaining old and new fans alike. Longtime fans of the series tend to abhor the Star Wars prequels of the early 2000s for many reasons. When Disney purchased Lucasfilm, they set out to mend this dented relationship with longtime fans, while drawing in a new generation of fans with a combination of talented creators and brilliant marketing strategies.
Disney executed one of the finest examples of “knowing your audience” by signing Star Wars fan J.J. Abrams to helm the new trilogy of movies, even after initially turning down the offer to direct. J.J. grew up with the original trilogy of Star Wars and was tapped to revive the old spirit of the original trilogy. He’s a proven writer and director who most famously reinvigorated an all-but-dead Star Trek series to the top of the box office and a faltering Mission Impossible franchise, as well. Not to mention launching a plethora of beloved TV series including Lost, Fringe and Alias. Fans have found solace with J.J.’s approach to filmmaking, as he has promised to utilize older techniques of filmmaking.
Huge movie franchises typically use vast marketing campaigns to promote themselves. Star Wars is no exception. On September 4th Force Friday, a worldwide Star Wars holiday of sorts, took place when Disney released the first round of The Force Awakens merchandise. Legos, lightsabers, clothing, décor, and other nifty toys were released to long lines of eagerly awaiting fans. Stores around the globe found their shelves empty in a matter of hours. The toy companies unitized YouTube’s live broadcasting capabilities to do a worldwide launch. Showcasing different toys in different countries with native speaking performers.
Disney doesn’t shy away from utilizing relatively unconventional tactics to market their properties, as well. Earlier in the year, developers created the Star Wars App, which allowed users to dive into the Star Wars universe with calendar countdowns, sound effects, gifs and even augmented reality. Video games like Star Wars: Battlefront immerses fans in classic movie battles. Disney parks in the U.S. will soon be home to Star Wars-themed parks. Giving tourists a chance to physically visit a galaxy far, far away and enjoy family experiences long after the movies have premiered.
As a marketer, there’s a great deal to learn from Disney’s approach of making and marketing these new movies, despite their huge budgets. Disney is showing it is possible to be genuine, no matter the size or scope of your product. It is possible to maintain a more intimate approach to marketing your business. Audiences respond to being reached out to and thoughtfully engaged with ads that harken back to our collective childhood. Most importantly you can show your efforts in creating your product and gratitude to your customers, personifying your business as a friendly entity and not just another business. Yes, Star Wars is a big franchise, but the owners and leaders of this franchise have always made an effort to put their fans first.