Unless you’ve lived under a rock in a galaxy far, far away for the past year, you’ve noticed Star Wars: The Force Awakens. How could you not? Disney used the force to over-saturate the market, placing The Force Awakens at the forefront of our minds long before the film’s December 17 release date. As we all know, too much of anything can become annoying and ultimately diminish its impact. So how did Star Wars earn $1.73 billion worldwide in three weeks, shattering box office records in the process? Disney’s exceptional marketing strategy is a force to be reckoned with.
Restoring Faith in the Force
We last saw Star Wars in theaters a decade ago – Star Wars: Episode III – Revenge of the Sith. Although a great Star Wars movie, the consensus among Star Wars fans is the prequels, Episodes I-III, are dreadful. Disney, J.J. Abrams and the cast of The Force Awakens had a herculean task to restore faith among die-hard fans, while simultaneously capturing the minds of a new generation of moviegoers.
The cast and crew began their journey by heavily promoting The Force Awakens around the world – talk show after talk show, interview after interview – which is routine when promoting blockbuster movies. However, the cast seemed like genuine fans of the series. Have you seen The Force Awakens’ cast sing the Star Wars theme song a cappella on Jimmy Fallon along with The Roots? Or see Oscar Isaac (Poe Dameron) and Gwendoline Christie’s (Captain Phasma) rendition of Led Zeppelin’s “Kashmir” at The Force Awakens press conference? How about John Boyega’s (Finn) lightsaber duel with David Beckham? These moments underscore a special camaraderie, which is abundantly clear onscreen.
Forging a connection with fans and moviegoers isn’t an exact science, and it’s easier said than done. The newcomers of the Star Wars franchise – Daisy Ridley (Rey), John Boyega (Finn), Adam Driver (Kylo Ren) and Lupita Nyong’o (Maz Katana) – traveled the world to promote one of the most anticipated movies in recent memory. The cast has been spotted in London, Los Angeles, Seoul, Shanghai, South Korea and Mexico. It’s been delightful to watch the Star Wars cast charm audiences around the globe during press tours, because it seems like they genuinely enjoy each other and love the movie.
Lesson: Enthusiasm is invaluable. Genuine excitement will spill over into your marketing strategy and consumers will take notice.
Flourishing in China
The Chinese box office has eluded Hollywood time and time again, where Star Wars has struggled historically. The original trilogy that began in 1977 wasn’t theatrically released in China until last June. So China was bereft of generations of kids, teens and adults wielding light sabers. Due to a lack of aspiring Jedi, the Star Wars prequels released and generated a meager $20 million combined. To expand the global appeal of the series, Disney pulled out all the stops to market Star Wars in China.
Star Wars descended onto China in a profound and symbolic way. 500 Stormtroopers marched across The Great Wall as the trailer of The Force Awakens was projected onto the wall. Influencing pop culture on a global scale, Star Wars received an attraction at Disneyland in Shanghai. On top of that, Disney’s launched promotions featuring the Justin Bieber of China’s pop stars. The marketing blitz paid off. Star Wars is off to a light speed start, breaking records in China with an estimated $33 million in tickets sales on its first day in theaters.
Lesson: Identify the weak points of a brand, product or service and focus on turning the weakness into a strength.
Such a Tease: The Force Awakens
A lone rider speeds across a desolate terrain that is riddled with the wreckage of a massive spacecraft, an image of Darth Vader’s scorched helmet, a hooded figure with a metallic hand touches R2D2, and the passing of a light saber from one hand to another – these are the moments in the first Star Wars: The Force Awakens teaser trailer that recaptures the nostalgia of the past while piquing the interest of a new generation. Crafting a proper teaser trailer takes skill, savviness and a unified vision. Most blockbuster movie trailers leave little to the imagination, but The Force Awakens’ trailers generated interest without spoilers, and sparked endless discussions among fans.
Lesson: Leave room for a bit of mystery in your marketing technique. Don’t overshare.
A New Hope
All things considered, Star Wars may be the ultimate movie franchise. After all, Disney did purchase Lucasfilm from the film’s creator, George Lucas, in 2012 for $4 billion. Star Wars is beloved by four generations and has its finger on the pulse of pop culture. Cleverly and consistently marketing the characters, the films and lore of the Star Wars series via costumes for cosplay conventions and Halloween, toys, comics, animated series, posters, apps and video games play an integral role in the success of the films. The Force Awakens is crushing records, and it’s not losing any momentum.
The galaxy of marketing is vast, and even a “Han Solo type” needs a plan to succeed. Enthusiasm, turning weaknesses into strengths and teasing audiences to pique their interest are proven methods that lead to success. These simple marketing Jedi tricks will put you on the path to instilling loyalty among your target audience, and maintain their interest for years to come.