Star Wars. Even if you haven’t seen it, I bet you can rattle off a list of its characters. And maybe give us a couple plot points. Who is Luke’s father? You know. We ALL know. Is it a product of a fantastic film? Or a seriously prime marketing campaign? We don’t want to call that, because we’d definitely get hate mail either way. Let’s just stick with this position: the marketing around Star Wars is a serious resource that you can seriously learn from. Seriously.
Lesson #1: Stay on brand.
In a way, the Star Wars brand so strong because of the Force. No, this isn’t an entry-level Star Wars joke. It’s one of the constants in a universe so broad that even the biggest superfan mightn’t be able to explain its entire breath because it’s bound together by the Force. But the Force isn’t all that binds it together. Surprise, surprise, Star Wars has brand and style guidelines and has done for a long time.
A writer employed to write an RPG for Star Wars in the 90s shared a style guide created for West End Games when they were creating the The Star Wars Roleplaying Game. Shared twenty years on, it’s still pretty fascinating.
We can only imagine the perhaps hundreds of iterations that exist of Star Wars style guides.
Changing hands to Disney may have killed something in some fans’ eyes, but it didn’t demolish the brand. There was consistency there that ensured that the film was still a massive US 2-billion dollar success at the box office. We can’t put this 100% up to brand guidelines, of course.
But if your brand doesn’t have a clear identity, it’s difficult for people to relate to it. And that severely limits your capabilities where familiarity (and resulting trust) are concerned. We construct brand guidelines for many of our clients to make sure that their brand voice, imaging, and logo are constant.
They include things like logo usage. Even though JJ Abrams made a change to the font in the scrolling opening credits! And people got angry. We can’t be sure our designers didn’t feel the same way… Sure they’re superfans, but it’s a testament to the dedication people have to the brand that they noticed.
JJ Abrams and Disney know how important those superfans are. And they use them.
Lesson #2: Engage your community.
May the 4th didn’t come from the Star Wars marketing team. It came from the fans. Star Wars fans are some of the most passionate in the universe – they want to celebrate the brand itself because it’s given them so much enjoyment. So the first step in utilising your community is to give them a positive, memorable experience. Give them something they’re looking for. Marketing can help you build out personas that give you a clear insight into what it is that your target audience is searching for. And from that research, you can build out products and services. George Lucas may have mentioned that the The Force Awakens was just that. In an interview, Lucas said, “They looked at [my] stories and they said, ‘We want to make something for the fans.” So yes – The Force Awakens wasn’t following exactly what Lucas had in mind after he relinquished the franchise to Disney. But, as we mentioned before, it broke records at the box office… So that’s pretty good evidence that this approach was a flaming success.
So, your fans and community are your biggest advocates. Social proof for Star Wars is seeing someone wearing a Star Wars t-shirt in the street. It’s someone drinking from a Darth Vader mug. Merchandise has made $20 billion plus for the franchise. We’re not saying start selling t-shirts. We’re saying utilise the network you have – ask existing clients to give your kind of social proof.
We talk about putting “social proof” on your website, watching your reviews, and collecting testimonials from your clients. But in reality social proof can be more than that. It can be collecting a bunch of likes on your Facebook, followers on your Instagram. Why does it make you trustworthy? Basically, people are a bit like sheep. They’ll follow the herd – if everyone is doing it, they feel like the activity must have some merit. If you see that one clothing brand has only 125 likes on Facebook, and another has 20k, who are you going to trust to have reliable shipping and a safe payment gateway?
Lesson #3: Make powerful partnerships
If you can’t turn your consumers into your advocates just yet, try turning another brand into your ambassador. Which brands or companies do your target market trust or use? Those are your potential partners. Star Wars, with its broad target market, has a tonne of partners. Cosmetic brands for the beauty-conscious, to cereals for the kids… Even airlines. You might not be able to get another brand to stamp your logo on their product. But you might be able to get them to retweet you. Tag them on social. Send them an email. Get on their radar. You might be able to write a guest piece on their blog. Askin’ ain’t stealin’.
Star Wars is a goldmine for marketing advice – these are just three lessons of perhaps thousands. Take heed, and may the force be with you.