By now, the whole world knows that Star Wars: The Force Awakens opened to mega-fanfare this past weekend. The movie set a new box office record with an opening worldwide gross of $517 million.
The fact of the matter is that the Star Wars franchise has been a cultural phenomenon for decades. Savvy digital marketers know that they stand to benefit from the hype generated by a certain galaxy far, far away (even if the events in the movie took place a long time ago).
One of the easiest ways to use the Star Wars buzz for self-promotion is with social media. Twitter is an especially great channel for that tactic because it advertises trending topics and hashtags to people who visit the site. Unsurprisingly “Star Wars” as a topic and “#TheForceAwakens” as a hashtag were trending during the opening weekend of The Force Awakens.
Here are a few of the smartest ways that various brands made use of the new Star Wars release to promote their own brands on Twitter.
It’s no surprise that Disney used Star Wars: The Force Awakens for promotional purposes. After all, the company that gave us Mickey Mouse is now the owner of Lucasfilm, the production company responsible for all things Star Wars. You might even say that Disney is Lucasfilm’s mother ship.
— Disney (@Disney) December 17, 2015
Disney used the “#TheForceAwakens” hashtag to offer something of value to people who follow the company’s account on Twitter: a video recipe for making BB-8 panackes. In case you’re one of the few unfortunate souls who’s not been following the buzz, BB-8 is the lovable droid in the new Star Wars movie. Since Star Wars is very popular with a young audience and pancake art is also something that kids from 1 to 92 find appealing, Disney’s marketing professionals knew that a video recipe with theme-relevant pancake art was a surefire winner. The recipe is also fairly easy to follow, giving people who aren’t pastry chefs the opportunity to make the BB-8 pancake. It’s just a matter of cutting a couple of pancakes into easy shapes, spreading some powdered sugar on them, and then adding lemons and blueberries for detail.
Wingstop is a company that serves humanity by offering Buffalo wings online. How can anyone have a problem with that business model? The company uses some smart marketing, too. Wingstop made use of the “#TheForceAwakens” hashtag to get the word out about its offering. Challenge: how does one connect anything in the Star Wars galaxy to Buffalo wings? Wingstop rose to that challenge in a way that should impress even the most anti-nerd marketer. In this case, Wingstop tweeted a short video that showed a woman grabbing a Buffalo wing and moving it around as though she was holding a light saber. It’s really a clever way to connect edibles to the Jedi arts.
As of this writing, that tweet has been retweeted 33 times and liked 48 times. That’s not bad for a company you probably never heard of.
If you’d had a particular stressful day, you might like to wind down with the Balvenie. It’s a single malt scotch that’s sure to satisfy the palate of the most discriminating connoisseurs of fine liquors.
The company also knows how to market its product based on cultural trends. Yes, the marketing department at the Balvenie made use of the ‘#TheForceAwakens” hashtag to promote scotch.
— The Balvenie (@BalvenieUS) December 17, 2015
No, it wasn’t done with a reference to the famous bar scene in the original Star Wars movie, although that would have been a great idea. In this case, the company tweeted a photo with a couple of its products next to a Stormtrooper mask. The tweet included the text: “When you taste #TheBalvenie, your palette awakens.” That’s a not-so-clever but still effective way to connect the company’s brand with the Star Wars franchise. It makes use of a clever marketing line with a picture that will assuredly resonate with Star Wars geeks who might have been kids when the original movie was released in 1977 and are therefore obviously old enough to legally consume adult beverages now. Also, most people won’t notice the misspelling of “palate.” So, this is still effective marketing.
Even the National Basketball Association (NBA) got in on Star Wars Twitter marketing. Again, some creativity was called for because most people don’t intuitively associate Star Wars with basketball. The NBA tweeted a YouTube video that included the Star Wars theme music, scenes from the trailer for The Force Awakens, and brief clips from basketball games. It’s a marketing push that simply interweaves elements from the popular movie franchise into basketball.
The video was accompanied with the tweet: “Peep this week’s JAM SESSION on #InsideStuff.” So it also created a bit of a curiosity gap.
Unlike most of the other companies we’ve covered thus far, it wasn’t too difficult for IGN to find a way to promote its brand with the buzz generated by The Force Awakens. IGN is, after all, a geek-genre online publication that caters to gamers in particular.
— IGN (@IGN) December 20, 2015
IGN was able to use the “#TheForceAwakens” hashtag for self-promotion by simply tweeting about a news article related to the movie. In this case, the company tweeted a link to one of its own articles reporting that the new movie had “demolished” box office records.
Yes, apparently they know quite a bit about Star Wars in Nigeria as well. That’s why that country’s division of Hewlett-Packard (HP) used the opening hype over The Force Awakens to market its products on Twitter. In this case, the company tweeted a photo with the copy: “#AwakenYourForce with the most versatile laptops in the galaxy.” That’s a debatable point, since it’s unlikely that anyone at HP has ever traveled far enough within the galaxy to verify the claim. However, no one in Nigeria is likely to pursue a false advertising claim.
Also, the text of the tweet invited people to join HP for a private screening of the movie. That’s a guaranteed way to get geeks engaged.
Slate is an online news and analysis publication. So, once again, it wasn’t too difficult to make a connection between the news about The Force Awakens and a news website.
However, Slate went the extra mile. The company tweeted a link with the text: “Everything you need to know about #TheForceAwakens.”
— Slate (@Slate) December 20, 2015
Short and sweet. Slate isn’t just offering a link to a story about the new movie, it’s also advertising a link that will ostensibly tell you “everything you need to know” about it. Clicking on the link takes readers to a page that does, indeed, offer a series of links to articles about The Force Awakens.
It’s not just for-profit businesses that are into self-promotion. Politicians have a personal brand that they need to promote as well. Hillary Clinton, the likely Democratic party nominee for the 2016 presidential election, used the buzz generated by the release of the new Star Wars movie to attack her political opponents. She tweeted a brief video of Star Wars droid R2-D2 falling down with the text: “This year, Republicans reminded us that the Dark Side is alive and well.”
Clever, but nerdy purists will note that R2-D2 fell in that scene not because of anything that has to do with the Dark Side of the Force, but because Jawas had just shot him.
Still, she did make use of the hype to promote her campaign. That’s smart.
Wrapping It Up
When it comes time to promote your own brand, never be afraid to stand on the shoulders of giants. If another company has captivated the hearts and minds of people in your target market for a brief time, why not try to find a way to craft a marketing message that connects your brand with the latest buzz?
Although it might be too late to work Star Wars effectively into a marketing message, there will always be new opportunities. For example, as of this writing, the Super Bowl is just a little more than month away. What can you do to promote your brand in connection with football mania? Think about that and come up with an effective campaign.
Also, keep in mind that Star Wars Episode VIII should be debuting in just a couple of years.