Like millions of others all over the world, my cousin-in-law Kit (who lives in Singapore) is a Star Wars fan. He was a child in the ’70s when the franchise was born and he’s sustained his love for the brand over the years, passing it on to his own son.
Stop and think about this for a moment. Sixteen years passed between the release of the first trilogy (1977 to 1983) and the second trilogy (1999 to 2005), and from there, it was 10 more years until the release of the first film in the third trilogy (2015 to 2019). What makes Star Wars so appealing to so many people over so many years?
This enviable success is due to the fact that the franchise has innovated while remaining true to what made it famous in the first place. By maintaining this tenuous balance, the brand meets the surprisingly complex expectations of consumers. They want brands to embrace change but stay true to heritage, to be accessible and responsive but to do so authentically, and to feel personalized to one yet relevant to all. Star Wars seamlessly moves its brand across numerous platforms, displaying true agility according to six key traits:
Star Wars knows what it stands for: good conquers evil. The brand is strong-minded about this and perennially seeks new ways to deliver on point, whether it’s gaming, fighting injustice alongside UNICEF, or creating new character merchandise. The overarching theme always links back to restoring freedom and justice to the galaxy (as dramatized by the princesses, Jedis, and other creatures).
From the ’70s until now, Star Wars has adjusted to new circumstances and found new opportunities. I remember the coloring book I had as a child, but today Star Wars endorses blogs, podcasts, and websites created by fans. The brand is confident enough to embrace new media.
Giving back has been important to George Lucas from day one. He used early screenings to raise money for charities around the world with a particular emphasis on children’s health care and education. Star Wars: Force for Change will support UNICEF’s Kid Power and help children around the world grow up healthy.
The brand uses many channels and experiences to engage with customers at the right time, in the right place, and in the right way. The Star Wars brand plays across e-commerce, social, merchandise, and events like Comic-Con. Not only is the love kept alive between film release dates, it is also extremely lucrative. According to online data, box office revenues are estimated at over US$4 billion, while merchandise has generated over US$12 billion.
While Star Wars was born in the United States, it essentially has no home base, adopting a global mindset. With legions of international fans, the franchise has been translated into over 50 languages.
Using online sites like Omaze.com, Harrison Ford and J.J. Abrams engage fans in seemingly personalized experiences.
It’s these traits that have helped keep the Star Wars brand so relevant despite almost 40 years between A New Hope and The Force Awakens. Not all brands will be as successful and recognizable as Star Wars, but these six principles can be replicated to ensure relevance and success over many decades.
My cousin-in-law summed it up better when he said, “I’m waiting to watch Luke, Han, and Leia again; it’ll be like having the holy trinity back.” What brand doesn’t want that kind of almost religious devotion? And just in time for Christmas too.
This blog was originally published by Marketingmag.com.au (December 2015).