I recently glanced up from my diligent strategizing of strategies to see Project Manager Sam with some kind of goggle thing on his face staring up into space mumbling awe-filled “wows” and “oohs” and generally giving off some kind of kid-in-a-candy-store vibe. When he was done (none of us recall how long this went on), I was able to ascertain that yes, this was Star Wars related and worthy of sharing. To add our voice to the collective din of musings and mysteries revolving around the new Star Wars film, I give you this interview you with in-house super fan, Sam Branchaw.
How is Disney/Lucasfilm appealing to nerddom in its marketing of the new Star Wars movie?
Quite frankly, through complete market inundation. You want a teaser for your teaser trailer? Check. You want to pilot an X-Wing on Google Maps? Check. You want your life-sized First Order Stormtrooper action figure? Check. If you can think of it, it has been branded. And if we know anything about nerd culture, it’s that it is obsessive. Pick your sci-fi or fantasy icon, (Star Trek, Doctor Who, Dungeons & Dragons, etc.) and it has been marketed in every conceivable realm and branded onto every possible piece of merchandise. With Star Wars, that has been ramped up to an absurd level, and the nerds are loving it.
So how are you remaining above the fray?
Ummm…I’m a total nerd with the rest of them. So I’ve watched every trailer on repeat, marathoned all the movies and downloaded all of the apps I can find. Just today I started playing around with the Jakku Spy experience on the Star Wars app, which uses Google Cardboard to immerse you in a bunch of scenes on the planet of Jakku. You get to watch tie-fighters chase the Millennium Falcon directly over your head and then you almost get run down by a landspeeder. It’s a lot of fun how every brand is getting in on the Star Wars action and increasing their own brand equity by proxy—in this case, Google helping to develop games, tie-ins and apps to get people even more excited about the movie.
Do you think all this marketing is “working”?
Absolutely. I think it’s a perfect storm of a well-established fan base and the heights of social marketing practices. I mean, when Episode I came out with its heavy traditional marketing blitz, Google was still an underdog, Microsoft ruled the world and Facebook was half a decade away from existence. We live in a completely different world now, and Disney has been very attuned to current social marketing practices. It also has a crazy budget and it benefits from every other brand wanting to be involved, so it can let hundreds of other companies do an immense amount of work and reach their own fan bases in the most effective ways. So not only are fans being approached from all sides, bringing their fervor to a fever pitch, but I think it has a huge draw to that segment of the population that is not particularly tied to the movies to think, “Maybe I’ll give this another chance, this looks like a ton of fun.”
Since we’re posting this on the day of the opening, what are your predictions on how this film will be received by the hardcore super fans?
I have an amazing amount of faith in J.J. Abrams—I’ve loved every show and movie he’s ever been involved with, (well, except for Alcatraz) from Lost to Cloverfield to Star Trek. I think he was the perfect directing choice for Star Wars in particular because he approaches his films as both an artist and as a fan, and I think he understands what people loved so much about the originals. So I think that he will, at the minimum, produce a perfectly adequate Star Wars movie, and most likely an excellent one. And all the hardcore fans really need is an adequate movie to get super pumped, because it’s not like there’s a book or a comic being adapted that everyone has a picture of in their heads—the characters are familiar, but the story is entirely new, and so people will be approaching it as something new and hopefully be able to appreciate it that way.
I also have really strong hopes that this film will draw in a whole new generation of fans, not just kids but also adults who for whatever reason don’t have any particular affinity for the movies already out there. I hope they see the film and think, “I really can get excited about these movies—this is way better than I remember.” J.J. already did this with Star Trek to a lesser extent, and I hope he can do it with Star Wars, too.
Thanks for the great insights Sam. Now please leave us with your favorite Star Wars quote….
“Never tell me the odds!”