As a die-hard Star Wars fan who has published several non-fiction books on the saga and contributed an essay to a scholarly book examining the franchise, I would be losing an opportunity if I didn’t post a Star Wars blog on Opening Day of a new film. Though seemingly unrelated to corporate video production and video marketing, Star Wars is at a closer glance a prime example of how powerful the moving image is at creating excitement and enthusiasm for a brand. Though fans had only seen trailers and television commercials for the movie before December, brands like Gillette, Nissan, and Columbia Sportswear had already launched product tie-ins for the new movie with great success. Nissan experienced a 300% increase in Website traffic after their Rogue One themed car commercial aired while Columbia Sportswear sold out of most of their limited edition jackets within a half-day of them going on sale.
While most companies outside of the top U.S. brands cannot afford product tie-ins with a major brand like Star Wars, there are still valuable marketing lessons to be learned. People are passionate about their hobbies, whether the hobby is Star Wars or hiking or playing poker or whatever else. When you can find the overlap between your customer base and their hobbies, you have the potential to create great videos that speak to many of your customers in a way that comes across as exciting and genuine rather than marketing-heavy and drab. Take the GoPro camera line, for instance, which has created numerous videos emphasizing mountain climbing, skydiving, skiing, and other outdoor activities. Suddenly, the GoPro market is not just filmmakers and camera enthusiasts, but everyone who shops at a sports goods store and everyone who enjoys the outdoors.
Just because you can’t afford an official tie-in with Star Wars or another big brand doesn’t mean you are prevented from creating parodies of popular culture events and brands like Star Wars, though. Our recent Mr. Formal commercial spoofs James Bond with our own character, “James Blonde,” who imagines himself as the super suave British spy when he’s deciding on which suit to rent from the company. Without using the name James Bond, we were still able to show iconic Bond tie-ins like an Aston Martin, a martini (shaken, not stirred), and a femme fatale. Many brands have taken advantage of major cultural events to create funny parodies that go viral and increase brand awareness, even without official authorization to use trademarked names.
This year, we also created a video for IOGear’s Imperial White series of gaming accessories (headset, keyboard, and mouse). The Imperial White design is reminiscent of the famous Stormtrooper armor and the tie-in works perfectly because there’s such a large overlap between gamers and Star Wars fans. Though the product series is clearly not affiliated with Star Wars, we played up the similarities by creating a space theme for the video, spoofing the Star Wars opening crawls, and emphasizing the connection in a wink-wink sort of fashion. The Imperial White series video was a modest budget piece but with maximum visual impact for a fairly straight-forward product launch video.
Whether you choose to incorporate popular culture references in your marketing and spoof well known brands or to create tie-ins with hobbyists in other ways, you should still buy tickets to see Rogue One in theaters. Star Wars is an incredible visual experience and the ultimate film franchise — besides being the reason I became interested in writing and directing — so find the nearest premium large format theater, buy your tickets, and enjoy another visual feast. May the Force be with you! Now excuse me, I’m off to see the movie for the second time already.