6 Branding Lessons from Star Wars

Hummingbird CreativeBranding & Creative

become a branding jedi

In 1977, George Lucas brought to the screen a cultural phenomenon that would last for decades to come and cross generations. Star Wars, his epic space opera (a subgenre of science fiction) touched hearts and spawned comics and novels, prequels and sequels, anthologies and animations, and TV series and video games. The music is some of the most universally known and people can quote lines from the movies without even seeing them.

“May the Force be with you.”-Han Solo

Great branding definitely plays a part in the Star Wars series success. We can learn a lot from the success Star Wars has seen and apply it to our own branding and marketing efforts.

star wars branding lesson 1: create an experience

We’ve previously written about experiential marketing and why you should consider adding it to your marketing plan. Star Wars was aware of the need for an experience from the get-go.

Experiential marketing relies on creating a closer bond between the consumer and the brand by making each touchpoint a fun and memorable experience. Then, when people think about your brand later on, they have positive and genuine emotions surrounding your brand.

In simple terms, the entire plot of Star Wars (yes, the whole series) is about good versus evil, light side versus the dark side. We see dynamic character development on both sides that eventually culminates into a struggle between good and evil.

 Basically, it’s what you analyzed literature for in high school English class.

Conflict is the most basic literary device and something we often face in our own lives. We might not be fighting Siths and blowing up Death Stars (you never know, someone in your audience might be) but it creates that emotional connection to draw viewers into the experience.

Through fantastic creatures, fans can identify with the emotional journey of the characters as it aligns with the basic human fundamental truths  everyone relates to. What’s kept this franchise going strong for almost four decades is their ability to evoke powerful emotions through dynamic storytelling to create an experience like no other film has been able.

star wars branding lesson 2: stay consistent

Consistency is the key to earning loyalty and repetition is important to learning. Sometimes during our branding, we forget that when we go from campaign to campaign, our audience will forget the previous campaign in favor of the new one.

In Star Wars, the central characters (that we’re building an emotional attachment to) stay the same. Luke Skywalker, Princess Leia, R2-D2, Darth Vader, Han Solo.

star wars branding lesson 3: building an online presence

While the Internet wasn’t around in the 70s, that hasn’t stopped Star Wars from using it as part of their branding today. The Star Wars social media platforms have some impressive numbers:

  • 2.4 million subscribers on the official Star Wars YouTube channel
  • 19 million likes on their official Facebook Page
  • 3.83 million followers on Twitter

 The keep your social media interesting and constantly going is by having enough content. Good content means you can open the door for meaningful interactions with your brand’s fan base. In order to attract their attention– and the attention of their networks– is to leverage a variety of content types. Make use of video, text, photos, music and more.

star wars branding lesson 4: reward your fans

Star Wars as a brand is built in the minds of their fans. The series has a tribe of loyal fans who eagerly await products, news and more from their favorite franchise. Most of them just want to interact with the Star Wars franchise and show their pride in their “fandom”.

“Products are made in the factory, but brands are created in the mind.” – Walter Landor

As a brand, you should reward your loyal followers and turn them into Jedis for your brand. Reward them with exclusive content, goodies, prizes– anything that can make your brand go viral. Watch as they become brand ambassadors for you and help you garner more customers and followers.   

star wars branding lesson 5: provide content that answers questions and strategically reuse content

Return of the Jedi had everyone wanting to know more, fans were dying to have their unanswered questions satisfied. When they wanted to know the journey Anakin Skywalker took to become Darth Vader, Lucas Films gave them the prequel trilogy (regardless of your feelings about the prequel movies, the fans wanted it). Fans were questioning what happened in the years between the second episode and the third episode. So, they got the Clone Wars animated series. Now, the new generation of fans wanted to know what became of Luke, Leia, Han, Chewbacca and the rest of the characters and they were given the new sequel trilogy.

 What’s given the Star Wars brand the ability to go from decade to decade without going stale and gaining more and more fans is their history of providing more content that answers their questions. Fans of your brand are the ones that purchase from you, and, in exchange, you need to provide them with an adequate amount of answers to their questions.

Of course, it can be a struggle to provide new, fresh content for your brand on a daily, weekly, or even monthly basis. While fresh content is important, there’s nothing wrong with reusing previous ideas retooled in a new way. 

The Star Wars series reuses plots that they know work and attract people, just slightly different.

*Warning, spoilers ahead.*

The Force Awakens is one of the movies in the new trilogy that takes place 30 years after Return of the Jedi. The surviving factions of the Galactic Empire have formed into a new military threat called The First Order with a new weapon of mass destruction called the “Star Killer Base”, capable of destroying whole planets. A small military force, called The Resistance, is trying to destroy the Star Killer Base and defeat The First Order. The leader of The First Order? A masked villain whose weapon of choice is a lightsaber.

 Does any of this feel familiar?

The premise of The Force Awakens is eerily similar to the original Star Wars movie: the Rebel Alliance is trying to take down the Empire’s planet-destroying Death Star. And Darth Vader, can’t forget Darth Vader, the original lightsaber-wielding masked villain.

Even though it may not seem like Lucasfilm and Disney are lacking in funding and resources, recycling content can help you deal with limited resources. If you had past content that was popular, there’s nothing wrong with repurposing, updating with new information (or, additional information that answers fans’ questions from the first time around) can help your brand keep putting out useful content.  

star wars branding lesson 6: take advantage of holidays

Look at the release dates of all the Star Wars movies.

  • A New Hope – May 25 1977
  • The Empire Strikes Back – May 17, 1980
  • Return of the Jedi – May 25, 1983
  • The Phantom Menace – May 16, 1999
  • Attack of the Clones – May 12, 2002
  • Revenge of the Sith – May 15, 2005
  • The Force Awakens – December 14, 2015
  • The Last Jedi – December 15, 2017

There was a history of releasing around May until the new trilogy; what happened?

 Easy. The Star Wars brand is about more than the movies. Action figures, card games, board games, video games, books, clothing, bedding, household goods and more are all apart of the Star Wars brand now. By releasing during the holiday season, they’re taking advantage of the hype and excitement so customers will buy the merchandise for children, family and friends.

 Make sure you take advantage of the holiday season– whatever that holiday season is that makes sense for your business. Valentine’s Day, Christmas, Independence Day, you’ve got options! Find what works best for your brand and jump on the opportunity.

 Star Wars didn’t accidentally become an iconic brand and impact pop culture in ways few movies have been able to. The series fundamentally changed the perception of sci-fi films and Hollywood as a whole. It can be hard to imagine that once upon a time, in a galaxy far, far away, Star Wars was in the same spot your brand is right now. With hard work, dedication and smart decisions, you may one day achieve the same level of success. Just remember, it all takes time.

Good luck and May the Fourth be with you.

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