New Star Wars Film Is a Marketing Force Brands Should Study

New Star Wars Film Is a Marketing Force Brands Should Study
Image credit: Star Wars Episode VII | Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures

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The Force is strong with Disney as it prepares to unleash the first new Star Wars film in 10 years.

Many analysts have predicted that The Force Awakens, which opens Dec. 18, will blast records, including the highest opening record of $208.8 million by this year's Jurassic World, Deadline reports.

And the House of Mouse is set to do this with fewer marketing dollars than studios typically dedicate to blockbuster films, according to The Wall Street Journal. The Star Wars brand looms larger than the Death Star over the planet Alderaan.

"I'm not sure there is another brand that has the marketing might of Disney [behind it] and the baked-in appeal of Star Wars," says Ed Catto, founding partner of Bonfire Agency, which focuses on the geek market. "The fascinating thing about the Star Wars brand is that it's a big tent. A lot of people can come in and participate."

Related: 5 Product Launch Lessons From 'Star Wars Episode VII'

That tent is large enough to fit in many other brands. Catto says it's safe to say that The Force Awakens features more brand partnerships than any other movie.

After you pour Star Wars-themed breakfast cereals, including Lucky Charms and Honey Nut Cheerios, into your kids bowls, you can add some Darth Vader-emblazoned espresso chocolate Coffee Mate creamer in your cup of joe. And why not treat yourself to a Death Star-shaped waffle, courtesy this maker from ThinkGeek?

Don't forget to apply your Covergirl Star Wars editions of mascara, nail polish and lipstick before you head out.

As you hit the streets, strap on your light- or dark-side themed Adidas sneakers (or, Crocs, if you're feeling lazy) and track suit. For lunch, there's Kraft Macaroni & Cheese featuring X-wings and droids. Paper cut? Patch yourself up with some Star Wars Band-Aids.

You get the idea. But, just in case: lightsaber barbecue tongs. Seriously.

Star Wars is inescapable, but strangely, up until this week, it wasn't from continuous movie trailers on TV.

"It's got to be the most pervasive movie promotion, product tie-in I've ever seen," said Jim Joseph, president of the Americas for New York-based communications agency Cohn & Wolfe and a marketing professor at New York University who has worked on movie campaigns.

The amazing thing, Joseph says, is that instead of inducing groans from fans, these tie-in products get them fired up.

Related: What Small Business Can Learn From Force of the Star Wars Marketing Blitz

"Unlike any other movie," he says, "[Star Wars has] these legions of brand ambassadors -- people who grew up on the movie and love the lifestyle."

These tie-in products serve as "touch points" for people, Catto says, further fueling anticipation whenever someone, say, pours coffee creamer out of a Chewbacca-adorned bottle.

"Casual fans can be a part of it on their own terms," Catto says. "What we're seeing now is exceeding marketers' and planners' expectations. It is a very positive reaction and sets the bar really high."

And don't count out the Disney marketing machine, which has been in full force for The Force Awakens. It's promoted the film on its ABC network on Monday Night Football and Jimmy Kimmel Live and with characters from series ranging from The Goldbergs to How to Get Away With Murder and through comics published by Marvel.

Certainly, there's something very special about Star Wars. It's one of the few franchises that has been experienced as a society -- Joseph calls it a rare "cultural phenomenon." Older generations may have seen the original movies in theaters, then watched them again on VHS with their children (like my father did). My generation then got to experience the films in theaters for the first time when the remastered versions released in 1997 for the 20th anniversary of Star Wars: A New Hope.

Of course, younger generations had a similar experience with the prequel trilogy from 1999 to 2005 -- but let's not talk about those films.

Disney's marketers are well aware of the warm-and-fuzzy feelings people have about seeing Luke Skywalker, Princess Leia and Han Solo on the big screen and actively play to them, but with respect and kindess.

"What's interesting is the original films were very cult-like and granular," Joseph says. "I think that's why it took off so much. And because [Disney has] been using brand evangelists, it's keeping that aspect of the cultish and insider feel alive."

Related: 4 Marketing Principles to Dominate Your Target Market

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