November 13, 2015

Brands Are Feeling The Force

If you’ve taken a breath of air in the last week, chances are that you’ve run into or been bombarded by some iteration of Star Wars-related marketing. Brands are clamoring to get in on the massive anticipation for holiday release (read: box office domination) of Disney’s newest film in the franchise, The Force Awakens.

Set 30 years after the events of 1983’s Return of the Jedi, this installment represents Disney’s first storytelling crack at the franchise. Attracting the attention of seemingly the entire universe, from longtime fans to complete newbies, brands are cashing in big-time. Be it branded airplanes, makeup, Mac n’ Cheese, kids toys – anything and everything in between, it seems like everyone is trying to secure a spot on the Star Wars hype train this season.

Brands are often drawn to the reliable performance of established franchises, and one as iconic as Star Wars is about as rock-solid as they come. While there is somewhat of a gamble involved (this still being a ‘new’ venture), brands and franchises go hand in hand – even when there is no apparent relation (maybe an Ewok’s favorite food really IS some type of branded snack).

But amidst all the brand chaos, there are some interesting uses of multimedia content marketing. Sphero, a company tapped (and funded) by Disney, built a robot based on the BB-8 character in the film. Partnering with several notable Snapchat influencers, they were able to capitalize on the strength and following of the franchise to build huge product buzz, generating 10 million Snapchat views in 24 hours. Positioned to be one of the holiday season’s hot new toys, the product sold out at retailers in a matter of hours. A Playstation official holiday spot (landing on more familiar channels) centers on the new Star Wars Battlefront game. The video rides the coattails of the film franchise buzz, delivering a powerful video that both fondly reminisces over a lifetime of dedication to the fandom, while introducing the playful and immersive ‘future’ in store.

The stakes are still high for Disney. Success is seemingly going to be defined not just by delivering inevitably huge box office numbers (Fandango reports that on the first day of pre-sales, the film ‘already sold 8 times as many tickets as we did on the first day of sales for the previous record holder’), but by hopefully eclipsing nostalgic expectations and establishing the revamped franchise on its own two feet. Regardless, the marketing perspective is clear: brands have already committed to this vision, and as evidenced, booked a flight on the Millennium Falcon.