May the Force Be With You — and Your Brand

03 Sep May the Force Be With You — and Your Brand

Today, Disney is hosting a live YouTube event to celebrate the release of a new line of Star Wars merchandise tied into the upcoming release of The Force Awakens. They’ve gathered Internet celebrities from around the world and will showcase them unboxing hundreds of toys, games, books, and more, all of which will go on sale this weekend.

Why should you care? Well, aside from the fact that I’m betting a good many of you reading this post are Star Wars fans, consider that this is all for a brand that’s been around for nearly 40 years – and yet, seems healthier than ever.

How in this world – or any other – does that happen, especially for a property that, by all rights, should have become dormant a long time ago (in a galaxy far, far…well, you get it)? How does something not only stay alive, but become increasingly cherished, over such a period of time?

One could argue that a brand’s longevity is due to the inherent benefits of the property itself. For Star Wars, this would be the storytelling, the characters, the debate over whether Han or Greedo shot first, etc. That argument would be accurate, but it’s not the full story.

Maintaining relevancy also involves deploying creative, attention-getting marketing initiatives. This is what makes the Star Wars YouTube event so cool – to my knowledge, something like this has never been done before. It’s not like Disney needs to do this to draw more attention to the brand. Yet they’re doing something unique that feeds directly into one of the main passions of the core Star Wars fan – the desire for collectibles.

It’s a lesson in marketing that established technology companies would do well to emulate. Before you sell me to Jabba the Hut over this thought, let me be clear: I don’t expect any of our clients to do a global YouTube unboxing event (that would be kind of hard with something like, for example, a cloud server).

However, I do encourage organizations to look at ways they can use technology – particularly social media – as a means of stirring interest and excitement. Of course, most are already doing this through Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and other sites. But don’t forget Vine, Meerkat, Instagram, Feedly, or other apps that will allow you to connect directly with your customers (yes, they use all of these, too). There are so many tools out there to help companies avoid marketing complacency.

And too many technology companies do end up getting complacent, only to find themselves having to reinvent their formulas to catch up with those whippersnapper upstarts. We’ve seen it happen time and again to established brands that have been a part of our culture for decades. Microsoft is an example of a company that found itself at the top of the world one day…then playing catch up to Google and Apple the next. BlackBerry is another example of a company that was a leader in its particular area only a few years ago, only to find itself in a steaming pile of Bantha you-know-what today.

There are, of course, many technology companies that have successfully stood the test of time through continuous innovation, reinvention, and marketing savvy. Red Hat is a fine example of an organization that has always managed to catch the next wave and ride it, all while leveraging the latest technologies for effective communication. Some of the other clients that I’ve worked with, notably SolarWinds and Metalogix, use online communities and video communications to keep their brands and products top-of-mind. Thanks to a combination of innovative products and creative marketing, I have a feeling all of these companies will end up aging pretty well, and still be relevant many years from now.

Look, I saw The Empire Strikes Back in the theaters when it first came out in 1980, and now I’m watching Star Wars Rebels on the Cartoon Network with my daughter. That’s a pretty impressive testament to the power of an enduring brand. It’s a power that companies can wield like a Jedi with a lightsaber.


Image courtesy Disney.

Pete Larmey
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