Confession: when I set out to see Star Wars Episode I The Phantom Menace on its opening night in 1999, I did so with dysfunctionally high expectations. I was convinced it would be a once-in-a-lifetime experience – a chance to relive something that meant so much a long ago time ago. Some two hours later, as the credits rolled, I realized how wrong I was. I had allowed my then 27-year-old self to believe the sci-fi fantasy world I’d first discovered when I was five would be something I could somehow still relate to. It took me weeks to get over it. Scratch that. I’m still not over it. The Phantom Menace was that bad.
Here we are on the official opening day of Star Wars Episode VII The Force Awakens and I’m once again filled with delusions of grandeur. But I’ve learned a thing or two in the intervening years; this time I’m setting the snake oil aside and looking at the experience from a marketer’s perspective. The fan in me is just there for the movie.
There’s only one thing saturating the airwaves more than The Force Awakens – Donald Trump. (The odds of you not having guessed correctly are approximately 3,720 to one.) The Donald aside, Star Wars is everywhere. So what’s a marketer to learn from something that could likely sell itself without lifting even a finger? (And the smart folks at Disney aren’t spending much on marketing.)
The power of the teaser: Disney is showing just enough for the movie to be incredibly intriguing without giving away the entire thing. From this, marketers (particularly those of us in services) should look at what Disney is doing to tease their own solutions, striving to find that elusive balance between sharing too much and revealing too little. It’s a hard thing for consulting companies to achieve, but it can be done.
The effectiveness of video: The comparison might not be fair because it’s a movie and there’s more than two hours of footage to draw from, but consider the range of teasers. There’s action, there’s emotion, there’s humor, there’s things that make you go “Hmm… interesting.” The lessons for marketers using video (and those who aren’t but really should be) is to mix it up. Keep things fresh. Don’t fall into the trap of rote repetition.
The ability to tap into existing networks of “fans:” Among social influencers and bloggers, the folks at Disney know who the real fans are, and those fans are talking up the movie in ways and at volumes money could never buy. And they’re not in it for the money. If you don’t know who your true audience is or how to draft them to do some of the work for you, look closer. Your fans are your clients (past and present) and your employees. Start there and put them to work raising awareness for and interest in the interesting things you’re doing.
Yes, The Force Awakens will make mountains of money, and it could’ve done that without any help. But clearly, Disney is doing things we can all learn from – and doing them very well.
One last obligatory thought: May the Force be with you. Always.
Pop Quiz: there are five references to Star Wars movie dialogue in this post. Can you spot them all?