The digital side of the force - an online awakening

Let me start this blog with a confession. My name is Leigh. I was a child of the 80s. And I’m a Star-Wars-aholic.

In my formative years, I watched A New Hope (just plain old Star Wars back then) and The Empire Strikes Back on TV whenever they were on. I queued in line when Return of the Jedi was released in cinemas and shared the disappointment with most of my generation when the prequel trilogy came out (if you disagree with them being a travesty, that’s your opinion… it just happens to be wrong!).

Despite the fact that, as I write this, I’m dosed up on caffeine due to having seen a midnight performance of Star Wars: The Force Awakens last night, this isn’t a review of the latest instalment in this world-dominating franchise.

Instead of exploring the multitude of marketing streams that were used to promote the movie, I thought I’d look specifically at a few of the digital marketing strategies and platforms that were used.

SW Poster

Image Source ; StarWars.com

“These aren’t the toys you’re looking for”

The Star Wars marketing machine is world renowned and my childhood consisted of collecting many of the toys, games and accessories relating to it. In fact, a bobblehead Yoda pen is looking at me as I type this! Rather than look at the examples of physical merchandise, which in recent years have become more and more extreme and now include stamps, showerheads and even make-up, I wanted to look at the kind of marketing that didn’t even exist when I was enjoying Star Wars for the first time. Here are 5 examples of how The Force Awakens has used the digital side of its marketing force.

“I felt a great disturbance online”

The first hint of a more on-line focus for the promotional activity came three months before the new film actually launched. The toys were always an integral part of any Star Wars movie and Episode VII used YouTube to build the already feverish anticipation with a live-streamed 18-hour unveiling of merchandise.

starwars force friday

Image Source; StarWars.com

Dubbed “Force Friday” it cashed in on both the importance of video in content marketing and also used the popularity of well-known toy ‘unboxers’ to reach a ready-made audience. With consumers spending $20bn on Star Wars merchandise since the first film came out in 1977, you can hardly blame them.

“Help me Obi-Wan Emoji”

Have you ever been in a situation where the only relevant response to a friend would be a character from Star Wars? Fear not! If you find someone’s lack of faith disturbing, you can send them a Vader!

Star Wars Emojis

Image Source; Lucasfilm Ltd.

The official Star Wars app has over 50 characters, ships, weapons and droids from each of the movies and now also includes a new serialised Google Cardboard Virtual Reality (VR) experience. But that’s not the only connection with the search-engine giant.

“Search your feelings (and Google)”

Disney announced a number of collaborations with Google. When you use your account to log into google.com/starwars, you can choose whether your apps display a design that matches the dark or light side of the force. Special experiences have been developed for Android Wear Watches, Google Calendar, Chrome, Chromecast, Gmail, Google Maps, Google Now, Waze, and YouTube, as well as added features in Gmail Inbox, Google Translate, and Google Search.

“A social weapon for a more civilised age”

Having used digital marketing tools like video content, app technology, and search engines, Star Wars also managed to take over social media (or at least more than it had already). Facebook introduced a new filter that adds a blue or red lightsabre to your profile picture, depending on which side of the force you wanted to ally yourself. Or, in my case, whichever you thought looked cooler.

I’m aware of the irony that I don’t actually look cool as a result of doing this.

I was going for comedy effect… and clearly failed.

As you might imagine for a multi-million-dollar global Hollywood franchise, digital marketing played an important part in the promotion of Star Wars: The Force Awakens, but it’s worth remembering that it should play a part in the promotion of any brand nowadays.

If you’d like us to put the force of our expertise behind your marketing strategy, get in touch today.

Now, having had only 3 hours sleep, I’m off for a lie-down!

Categories: Digital Marketing

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