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Agencies 4 Growth Festival Logo
Agencies 4 Growth Festival Logo
Agencies 4 Growth Festival Logo

How brands stand out in a galaxy far, far away

Star Wars Episode VII The Force Awakens is arguably the biggest pop culture event of the year. And it seems as if every brand wants their share of the Force. It’s kind of an easy assignment, right? You can do pretty much anything and people will pay attention because it’s Star Wars.

Well, yes and no. Because it’s Star Wars, everything has already been said. Everything has already been done. It’s tough to stand out. It’s even tougher to make great Star Wars work for your brand that actually has something to do with your brand.

When thinking about Star Wars for Target, we pushed ourselves to find a place Target could truly own. What does Star Wars mean to Target?

Well, Target sells Star Wars stuff. Since 1977 they’ve been selling the stuff that brings Star Wars into our homes, our hearts, our imaginations.

Around our agency, we like to say Star Wars is the only franchise where you can hold up the old lunch box and people have an emotional reaction. Fans love their Star Wars stuff just as much, if not more, than the actual films.

And we have so many memories connected to that stuff!

According to Lucasfilm, there are over 100 million Star Wars fans out there (feels modest), and we all share these kinds of memories. It’s what connects us from generation to generation. No brand has ever really run with this insight, so that’s where we have chosen to play.

We reached out to real fans and asked them to dig up old photos and home movies in their parents’ attics. Even if they didn’t have an artifact of their Star Wars memory, they had a story to share. is the first ever collection of Star Wars memories to be archived forever by Lucasfilm. To launch it, we created a long-form video made up of people’s personal Star Wars photos, home movies and fan freak-out films. We’re proud to say it made many grown Jedis cry. Mark Hamill even tweeted about it.

Of course, brands have been leveraging Star Wars for almost forty years now, and it’s typically a win-win. Lucasfilm extends its characters beyond the silver screen to commercial breaks, as well as toy and cereal aisles worldwide, the brands see a bump in sales thanks to their connection with the franchise, and the fans get more Star Wars stuff.

But the brands that stand out in this saturated market find the poignant truth, which then resonates with fans. It’s what I like to think of as the “lunchbox connection.”

HP’s “Keep Reinventing” campaign highlights passion, ingenuity and technology as the principles of reinvention, which connect the brand to the Star Wars universe. Specifically, its “Sound Wars” spot smartly taps into our universal love of the “Imperial March,” recreating the beloved tune organically (humming the way fans do) and with HP technology.

Kraft awesomely embraces the absurdity of our intense love of Star Wars stuff. Star Wars-branded mac and cheese makes no sense. I love that they just owned it and made it a part of the bigger story of all the weird and wonderful stuff Star Wars fans treasure.

They even partnered with Rancho Obi-Wan to create an interactive website where fans can explore its rare Star Wars memorabilia collection, which now features eight different boxes of Star Wars Kraft Macaroni & Cheese.

Lego and Star Wars have a long history and both have a passionate fan base. The fan-created recreations of Episode VII trailers are the perfect embodiment of their relationship. Were they truly created by a random fan or Lego? Who cares? 500,000+ viewers per trailer certainly shows that.

Sometimes all you need is a simple product feature to genuinely work your brand into a Star Wars conversation. Remember “The Force” by Volkswagen? It all began with a simple truth of believing in the force.

This connection to Star Wars that parents feel with their kids is a powerful hook. When speaking with fans, it became clear it wasn’t just old Star Wars memories that people cherished; it’s the new ones we’re making with our sons and daughters. A writer we worked with joked that there are two days in your life you never forget: The day your kid is born and the day you introduce him or her to Star Wars.

The Force Awakens ushers in a new generation of Star Wars fans, right alongside a new slew of brands trying to claim their place in hyperspace. Star Wars saturation is inevitable. So when that Star Wars brief lands on your desk, think like a fan, act like a fan, brand like a fan. Because that’s how you connect with the fans.

May the force be with you.

Janet Higdon is a creative director at Deutsch

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