Every month, over 500.000 new businesses are started. It seems like a big number, but keep in mind that 30% of those businesses will go under within 2 years. Half of them will close their doors for good before they even hit five years. The odds are against you. But what if I told you that the best practical business advice comes from the most unlikely source – the show business? Star Wars, to be more exact!
In this guest post, Sorin Amzu from Evonomix explores 9 actionable tactics you can use to market your business, using insights from Star Wars. Invited to browse through these tactics you are!
Tell An Exciting Story
“A long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away…”
You probably remember this since it’s in the opening sequence of every Star Wars movie (and in some cases even video games). Since it’s consistent throughout 7 movies, it gets you excited to know what’s different this time.
Agood story has 3 basic elements:
- A hero in distress, who will go on a journey to discover who he is and battle his demons
- A conflict where the hero usually prevails, even though he’s on the edge of losing
- A resolution
Your brand’s story should be focused. You should aim to secure one stop in people’s brains – Coca-Cola is happiness, Red Bull is energy, George Clooney is handsome, Rolex is luxury, Apple is innovation, Toms is giving back.
This last example is an interesting one. It’s got a great story – one you can tell other people at parties and they feel the need to take out their phone and check it out for themselves. Founded by Blake Mycoskie in 2006, Toms is a company based on the principle of One For One. You buy a pair of shoes, another pair is sent to someone who needs it most. They’ve extended their offerings with eyewear, coffee and bags.
All their products contribute to the wellbeing of kids or families in impoverished regions, like Guatemala, Haiti, Rwanda and South Africa. You could say that’s just a story, but it’s also the driving factor behind many marketing and business decisions. They could’ve simply done what Apple does – provide special RED versions of already popular products and be done with it. But Toms’ story permeates throughout its website and its business core, making most people who shop there actually FEEL something. Toms has turned online shopping into an emotional experience, thanks to the power of stories.
HOW TO GET STARTED USING THIS TACTIC: Start with your brand, mix in your customers’ desires and needs and craft a compelling story, that is consistent throughout the ages.
…But Also Make It Fun
Jar Jar Binks. Failed fun experiment? Sure. Interesting Star Wars character? Some would say so. You can’t talk about the Star Wars prequels without mentioning Jar Jar.
There’s no shame in trying something new, reaching out for different audiences, as long as you stay true to your own message and vision. After all, a brand grows up, a brand diversifies, a brand tries new things in order to understand its customers better.
If fun isn’t in your brand DNA, shoehorning it in will be pretty painful. For you to attempt and for your customers to watch. Samsung isn’t fun – it can be snarky, but it’s not fun. Nike isn’t fun – it’s edgy, but not fun.
On the other hand, Vat19 is an extremely fun business. It sells novelty items, like shot glasses with lights in them. Glow in the dark sill putty. Oversized Jenga blocks. Fun is in their DNA. I mean just look at their user initiation ritual:
Not only are their products fun, but the way they describe them on their website and their YouTube channel makes them even more enticing. And this is where most copycat businesses fail – they deliver on the novelty items, but they lack the fun. So they fail.
Not every business SHOULD be fun though – after all, you don’t want your local doctor turning up for your surgery wearing a red clown nose, do you?
HOW TO GET STARTED USING THIS TACTIC: Highlight your fun side, if you have one, through design, content marketing and products.
Champion Your Characters
Luke Skywalker. Obi Wan Kenobi. Master Yoda. Finn. Rey. They’re all characters built up to incredible levels of detail. We learn about their past, their motivations, we go through story arcs with them. We’re emotionally connected, since they’re the good guys. We empathize with them.
Kickstarter is all about making sure its users win. When they win, so does Kickstarter. The crowdfunding revolution is built on the idea of sharing and collaborating. Further more, the story unfolds and moves on ONLY if the good guy (Kickstarter product/project) grows up (gets funded by users). But it doesn’t end there. Ambassador programs like Chubbies and TheHustle put the user front and center.
By highlighting the customers that make up the community, businesses like yours are able to tap into the most powerful sales tool out there: friend recommendations. Once you have those, you’ve got testimonials. And from there on out, word of mouth can future-proof your business for little to no money at all.
HOW TO GET STARTED USING THIS TACTIC: Make your customers the hero of the story, by focusing on their testimonials, their pictures, their lives and their stories.
…Even Your Villains
You might be surprised to learn that Darth Vader is more popular than Luke Skywalker, in terms of online searches, toys and online discussions. Why might that be? Why is an evil character more interesting and talked about than the hero of the story?
Going back to journalism itself, its main attribute is negativity. That isn’t to say we should ONLY write about bad things going on. It’s just that we, as people, are drawn more to this side of life. So journalism, and, by extension, the rest of mass media (movies, games, etc.), simply complied with this idea and followed through.
Let’s consider Omo, the laundry detergent. If all it talked about in its ads were its properties, it would’ve been dead in the water (no pun intended). So what did they do? They focused on the villain – and made it the star of its ads with the “Dirt is good” campaign.
So now people were not only associating dirt and messiness with something good, but it was something that they could forget all about. If they had Omo in their home, the problem’s solved. They flipped an age-old concept and turned it into a positive. Without dirt, your kids will not have the same fun experience. And you, as a mother, do you really want to rob your kids of their childhood? This also meant that all the other laundry detergents were in trouble. They all advocated dirt is bad, and this approach made then be perceived as the enemy of childhood.
HOW TO GET STARTED USING THIS TACTIC: Focus on your customers’ pain points, rather than your product’s benefits.
Be Very Transparent
While Disney was making The Force Awakens, it pulled out all the stops to make fans excited about a movie that was coming about a year later. They’ve shown work in progress, shared behind-the-scenes footage, provided early teasers and interacted with fans by using their version of R2-D2 in the final movie.
Customers enjoy seeing how things are made and put together. It also gets them talking and speculating, creating even more buzz online. Which is great for the brand that’s providing all this info. And one brand in particular really took this home.
McDonald’s Canada took questions from the public and created small videos answering even the craziest ones (What is “pink slime”?). It generated a lot of positive feedback online, rejuvenated the brand and took it closer to it audience.
As customers become more and more interested in what’s going on around them, brands should be on point, at the other end of that discussion, interacting and providing useful and attractive information.
HOW TO GET STARTED USING THIS TACTIC: After you’ve made sure you business is top notch and your product world class, it’s time to pull back the curtain and talk about your struggles, your challenges, your hiring practices, etc.
…While Still Maintaining Some Elements Of Mystery
There are over 100 books and graphic novels in the Star Wars Universe. Thousands upon thousands of years of lore and hundreds of characters – not mentioned in the blockbuster movies.
It’s ok for your customers to not know every single detail about your business. That keeps them guessing and allows you to develop further instalments of the story that is your brand. Before you start shrouding your entire business in mystery, it’s important to remember that some elements should be clearly marked:
- Product manufacturing processes
- User privacy details
- Email subscription limits
Your customers should know all those – and more – if they’re to trust you. But there are things you can leave to their imagination, such as:
- The backend streaming technology
- The reason workers love working there
- How you can afford free shipping and returns on any order
KFC does it perfectly. Their “7 secret herbs and spices” element is key to their DNA. Consumers latched on it and started speculating, without the fear of something bad in the middle. It’s a consistently interesting mystery that gives consumers another thing to talk about.
Since word of mouth is key in today’s social-media business landscape, it doesn’t hurt to use every bit of marketing prowess to one up the competition and keep the focus on you.
HOW TO GET STARTED USING THIS TACTIC: Bake mystery into your brand’s story and let consumers guess what it might be, while you drop hints from time to time, keeping the interest alive.
Put Strategic Partnerships In Place
Star Wars is everywhere in part thanks to its brand cache, built over decades of storytelling. But its secret weapons have always been the partnerships it’s created: Disney, Pizza Hut, McDonald’s, Volkswagen, Lego to name just a few. They’re growing the Star Wars brand by keeping top of mind for its audience.
It’s the same with Red Bull. They’re now a multi-million media company first. And a provider of energy drinks second. They’ve got a Music Academy, a digital newspaper and sponsorships for a wide variety of extreme sports events. Oh, and Felix Baumgartner’s jump from the edge of space broke 5 Guinness World Records.
That means that by association, Red Bull does give you wings thus allowing for some amazing displays of the product’s properties. That’s not something that every other energy drink maker can say. Red Bull has truly won that space in people’s brains marked “energy drink”.
Partnerships work so well, because of that old saying “1+1=3”. That means that by combining the efforts of 2 different entities you’re able to achieve a much more powerful end result.
Choosing a partner should work both to your strengths and weaknesses. That means if your brand isn’t that good, for example, at manufacturing – find one that does that really well. If you’re great at branding, team up with something who’s great in some other stuff, but lacks branding know-how. Together you’ll grow each other’s brands and businesses, while using less of your own resources in the process.
HOW TO GET STARTED USING THIS TACTIC: After you’ve identified your business profile, find complementary entities to can work with, to forge a mutually advantageous partnership.
…Without Forgetting About Emotions
“No, I am your father!”
It takes a strong man to admit he didn’t shed a tear when Darth Vader said that to Luke, his son. If you were invested in the story from the beginning, this moment will come as a shock, since we weren’t ready for such a big reveal.
More recent movies, like The Force Awakens, try to replicate these emotions, but with little impact. Kylo Ren is simply mentioned as the son of Han and Leia, so there’s no surprise or relief. Perhaps it’s a generational thing – millennials are more direct and don’t like being bored with details.
A business doesn’t ship with emotions. A corporation is not a person – no matter what the U.S. legal system tells you. Infusing feelings into a business is not easy task. So who does this year after year? Apple.
It’s now seen more as a tech religion than as a technology company. With a dead messiah, yearly resurrections and a cult-like following, Apple has always bet on emotions to win over customers. From ads starting with the words “Here’s to the crazy ones” to others ending with “And you’ll see why 1984 won’t be like Nineteen Eighty-Four.”.
While PC competitors like Microsoft and Dell were betting on the enterprise and DIY markets, Apple chose to focus on the artists, the inventors, the architects. People that used their imagination and dared to dream. Computers suddenly weren’t just pieces of technology, they had souls. They could talk to us. They could be more beautiful than square brown boxes. They could help us achieve more. And that meant something. That meant Apple’s products were deemed “beautiful”, “iconic” and “timeless”.
HOW TO GET STARTED USING THIS TACTIC: Make your products and services mean more to your customers than what they do for them, by painting a picture of how it helps their entire lives.
Believe In The Force (Of Content Marketing)
Star Wars is the epitome of Content Marketing – there are movies, video games, animated TV shows, books, graphic novels, toys, board games and so much more. They all work together to keep the brand in people’s attention. There’s been a steady stream of content in the media ever since the first Star Wars came out. Without a doubt, there isn’t a movie franchise with more points of marketing contact than this one.
Buffer is a social-media technology company built on the idea that content should be easy to share. It’s valued at over $60 Million and for good reasons. Its founders, Joel Gascoigne and Leo Widrich, are firm believers in transparency and creating amazing content. Since promoting tech products takes a lot of money, they decided to go low-end by employing guest posting. Leo wrote an incredible 150 guest posts in 9 months. This is about 1 article every 2 days.
And the result of this guest posting tournament? Over 100.000 users in 9 months. Of course, since guest posting means article on someone else’s website, it’s bound to be a snowball effect. Once you post there, others will pick it up. Thanks to those early wins, Buffer now has republishing connections with Huffington Post, Fast Company, The Next Web, Inc and Lifehacker. If this doesn’t convince you that Content Marketing is more than posting on your company blog once in a while, I don’t know what will.
HOW TO GET STARTED USING THIS TACTIC: Become an expert in your field by deploying multiple streams of content, showcasing to the world how fun and interesting your business environment is.
It doesn’t matter if you’re 5 or 55, Star Wars is and will continue to be an eternal source of insights for business owners, entrepreneurs and marketers all around the world. Wish you luck I do!
The comment section is open – how has Star Wars changed the way you think about your brand?