The latest Star Wars frenzy is well underway. (Arguably, has it ever really stopped?) Let’s take a few parsecs to wonder why the folks behind “The Last Jedi” bother to pay a single penny to market the movie? I argue they could simply release the date it’s coming out (December 15, in case you’ve just returned from a long trip to Tatooine or recently emerged from carbon-freezing) and still make millions. The viewing masses, including me, would likely arrive without experiencing a robust, interactive promotion campaign or encountering an overwhelming number of branded items – from exclusive toys and collectibles to Rey’s face on everything, including toothbrushes and onesies for the little Padawans – on TV, in the stores and through social media. Disney’s Star Wars marketing strategy is a brilliant, well-designed and -executed force. But is it necessary?

The genius behind Star Wars’ successful marketing strategy.

Let me put it another way: If I just found out today that a new Star Wars movie was coming out tomorrow, I wouldn’t ask what it was about, or whether it was Episode XVIIIIXX or XIVVVIIIIX. I’d simply show up. And you’d probably be right there with me. What other brand can bank on that kind of audience loyalty? (Probably Apple, but this piece isn’t about growth through built-in obsolescence.)

So why the marketing strategy frenzy for “The Last Jedi”? Truth is – and this may sting Star Wars fans – it’s not for you or me. It’s for our five-year-old selves. To assure future generations of Star Wars fanatics, Disney must market the heck out of “The Last Jedi” in order to maintain its hold on movie ticket buyers, toy purchasers and – soon enough – amusement park visitors for years to come.

Here’s one way Star Wars is evolving its marketing strategy for the next generation.

Today, interactive, digitally native marketing and communications promotions are “it.” Brands can no longer rely solely on traditional paid media campaigns. Millennials and Gen Z (and beyond) crave experiences. They don’t want to react to content; they want to interact with it. And what better way to do that than with a hot – though still emerging – tech trend like augmented reality (AR)?

Brands can no longer rely on traditional paid media. Millennials and Gen Z crave experiences.Click To Tweet

Earlier this year, Star Wars fans were encouraged to discover clues about the new movie via their smartphones and a specially created Last Jedi AR app. Participating retailers displayed posters and other artwork that included a “Find the Force” logo. Players scanned the “art” to see virtual Star Wars characters come to life – and reveal teasers for the upcoming film.

Not ready to invest in AR? There are other types of interactive promotions that can get your younger “fans” excited about your brand and what it offers. Remember, those cute and cuddly porgs seen in the trailer for “The Last Jedi” weren’t designed for you or me; they’re for our kids. Otherwise, they’d have no place in a decades-long story arc featuring patricide and planetary destruction… among other touchy-feely subjects.

This piece has several Star Wars references in it. Did you catch them all?

Answers: Rancor (large unpleasant alien); parsec (a measure of time), Tatooine (desert planet, also unpleasant), carbon-freezing (a method of, well, “storage”), Padawan (a young warrior in training), Jedi mind trick (brainwashing technique, eventually wears off, doesn’t work on large unpleasant aliens), porgs (penguin-like aliens).
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With more than a decade at Stern, Ned has had the opportunity to counsel – and learn from – some of the brightest minds in business. A lifelong student, he is always searching for new ways to hone his craft by applying insights and ideas from outside sources. He says inspiration can come from anywhere in the world – from his young children to emerging start-ups to more established brands – which he constantly draws on to infuse creativity into client programming. As vice president, his pragmatic leadership style combines with strategic thinking to effectively connect clients with top-tier media, conferences and industry influencers. If he hadn’t answered the call to become a communications pro, you might have found him as a carpenter crafting wood furnishings and cabinetry.