The excitement of the galaxy is at fever pitch this week thanks to the imminent global theatrical release of Star Wars: The Force Awakens. Full reviews are now out, and from most publications they have been pretty phenomenal. Don’t worry, we’re not going to spoil anything – if you’re concerned about that sort of thing, Google has released a Chrome extension that blocks access to any potentially spoiling pages. Actually, does that rule this page out?
— Time Out London (@TimeOutLondon) December 16, 2015
Film critics hail Star Wars ‘triumph’ https://t.co/o6Tw4yKVsy
— BBC Entertainment (@bbcentertain) December 16, 2015
What’s interesting is the way that Disney, which owns the Star Wars brand, has employed content marketing techniques to ramp up fan frenzy during the three years we have known the film was in production. The only recent comparable release marketing-wise was June’s Jurassic World (the latest instalment of another huge brand), but The Force Awakens has taken things to new heights.
It’s easy to dismiss content marketing efforts when you’re working with a brand as iconic as Star Wars. It could never have attained iconic status, though, without George Lucas’s skill in telling a simple, strong, consistent, universally relevant story through the original three films: principles that are the very essence of content marketing.
Any piece of marketing content has to be relevant to the product (the film) – whether it’s informative, entertaining, controversial or otherwise engaging and valuable to the reader – and support it as part of a consistent brand message. It needn’t necessarily aim to attract leads to a website. Disney doesn’t need to use The Force Awakens to attract new traffic to its website; it needs to revive and strengthen the relationship between the brand and its audience, getting new and old fans excited about seeing the film to maximise box office takings.
With the first two major pieces of content it released, it achieved simplicity, consistency and significant benefits across the entire Star Wars brand.
The full cast was announced after months of speculation in April 2014 in the form of a picture of a script read. Mark Hamill, Carrie Fisher and Harrison Ford were there alongside new faces like John Boyega, Oscar Isaac and Daisy Ridley, and they prompted a huge, positive social media reaction.
— Star Wars (@starwars) April 29, 2014
After the poorly-received sequels, the casting announcement proved to sceptical fans that the film was being “done right”.
Disney gave its audience what it wanted, meeting its initial needs.
2. Consistency (mixed with freshness)
Now let’s think about the first teaser trailer. In 90 seconds of footage, what do we see and hear?
- A menacing voiceover talking about “an awakening”.
- A desert planet (not unlike Luke Skywalker’s home planet of Tatooine).
- A stormtrooper with his helmet off (Boyega).
- A new, cute droid called BB-8.
- A woman (Ridley) on a small airborne craft.
- X-wing fighters (one piloted by Isaac) racing over a lake.
- A hooded figure with a triple-bladed red lightsaber.
- The Millennium Falcon in full flight accompanied by a blast of John Williams’s triumphant Star Wars
The trailer whets the appetite by showing a world recognisably Star Wars (notably with the final shot of the Falcon and theme music) with enough new material to differentiate itself from what came before while retaining familiarity (Triple-bladed lightsabers! X-wings! Droids!). It doesn’t give anything away, thus tapping into human psychology: natural curiosity and an innate desire to find more out. The drip-feeding of information would continue in future trailers, with the one-line return of Han and Chewbacca in teaser trailer #2 and the mystery of Luke Skywalker’s absence in the trailers.
Disney continued to provide value and meet the audience’s requirements. It also promised more value and information in future content instalments, thus ensuring they would return.
The trailer also plants the seeds for the release of the BB-8 droid toy – perhaps included especially to be sold as a toy or to appeal to the new generation of fans (i.e. children) – so the content marketing here helps to benefit other arms of the Star Wars brand. Box office and home video profits generated by the films only make up a small fraction of Star Wars’ revenue. Books, toys, clothing and so on account for much more. The triple-bladed lightsaber toy is also on sale, and the brand teamed up with J. Crew for official “Chewie, We’re Home” clothing.
Disney therefore demonstrates that its content and product inform each other. The two blend perfectly to position the Star Wars brand for renewed global dominance in anticipation not only of The Force Awakens, but the Star Wars films to be released practically every year from now on.
Disney ensured its content marketing provides value to other arms of the Star Wars brand.
As content marketers, our approach should follow the same principles listed here. Granted, we’re not promoting a brand as huge and well-loved as Star Wars, but by concentrating on simplicity, consistency and trying to benefit as many branches of the brand as possible, the Force can truly be with our content marketing efforts.
Do you think Disney’s content marketing warrants acclaim, or was it always an easy task to promote a new Star Wars film? Let us know @RocketMill.