The “Star Wars” Marketing Machine

People from all walks of life and every corner of the globe will soon come together to joyously celebrate what promises to be one of the most memorable days of the year, a day kids have been looking forward to for months and a day adults get to feel like kids again. On Friday, December 18, “Star Wars: Episode VII – The Force Awakens” hits theaters. Perhaps you’ve heard?

Of course you’ve heard because we’ve been bombarded with updates about the latest adventure in the beloved franchise since news first broke that Disney acquired Lucasfilm – and “Star Wars” along with it – from George Lucas in 2012 for $4.6 billion. When it was later announced that J.J. Abrams would direct the first movie in the new trilogy, most fans were giddy, hoping Abrams would make amends for the damage done by the poorly received Episodes I, II and III in 1999, 2002 and 2005.

While we won’t know for a couple days whether “The Force Awakens” will match its sky-high expectations, we can learn a few things from Disney’s marketing campaign for the movie.

The best products practically market themselves.
While it may seem like every other commercial on TV these days is some kind of “Star Wars” promo, the Wall Street Journal points out that Disney has spent less to market “The Force Awakens” than studios will typically devote to similar mega releases. Whereas movie studios will routinely invest about $50 million in US marketing for a blockbuster of this magnitude, with the bulk of that devoted to TV advertising, Disney has spent roughly $17 million on TV ads, according to research from Granted, that number has no doubt increased as the campaign hits the homestretch but it’s clear Disney felt they could and should do things a little differently with “The Force Awakens,” relying on building anticipation and undying fanboy loyalty instead of a blind spending strategy. Think about how many times your Facebook feed exploded each time a new trailer with never-before-seen footage hit the Internet.

Nostalgia is a powerful ally.
Much of that fanboy loyalty has been fostered through the relationship many of us have with the “Star Wars” franchise, one that likely started when we were kids and was strengthened in endless backyard lightsaber battles, cheap plastic Halloween costumes and late-night movie marathons. Some have since passed the love for these stories on to kids and even grandkids, who in turn have built their own relationships with the series through an expanded universe of TV shows, books and video games. Disney and its partners, of course, understand how influential nostalgia can be and have honed in on that with ads like this that hit just the right notes with fans of all ages:

Mistakes can be forgiven.
In preparation for “The Force Awakens,” I’ve been rewatching the original six “Star Wars” movies with my own kids. During that time, one thing became clear to me: “Episode I: The Phantom Menace” is a baaaad movie that couldn’t overcome Jar Jar Binks or George Lucas’s increasingly painful attempts at humor. It’s even worse than I remember, which is really saying something. And yet, I’ll be there with my kids to see the new movie this weekend, as will countless other optimistic fans who are ready to wipe all records of “Episode I” from their memories and, as some have predicted, help make “The Force Awakens” the highest grossing movie of all time.

At least until “Episode VIII” comes out in 2017.

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