Wednesday, January 15, 2014

What Should be Disney’s Marketing Strategy For Star Wars: Episode 7?

 marketing

After the great Episode 7 box office article here comes another interesting piece from Forbes about the marketing strategy that Disney should make for the upcoming Star Wars: Episode 7…

I know that many Star Wars fans won’t agree with Scott Mendelson’s conclusions below but I think this is the right path that Disney should take. I really miss the times when people went to see a movie with expectations based only on the movie’s poster and title. I know that such thing is impossible nowadays but still Disney could limit the damage with a new and bold marketing campaign.

From Forbes

As most of you likely know, there was an article from The Hollywood Reporter on Saturday night discussing various rumors regarding the upcoming Star Wars: Episode VII. I won’t rehash said rumors, but said alleged rumor dump gives me an opportunity to discuss how Walt Disney has a chance to save modern film marketing from itself. Because Star Wars is well, Star Wars, Disney has a shot at doing it different, doing it better, arguably doing it right. From now until at least summer, 2015, Disney and Lucasfilm’s official statement for any and all alleged Star Wars information should be exactly what it was on Saturday night: “No comment”.

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There will of course be unofficial leaks and educated guesses popping up online between now and December 18th, 2015, and I don’t fault reporters who track down movie news for doing their job. But Disney is in a unique position. The film is arguably the most predetermined blockbuster since well, Star Wars: Episode One: The Phantom Menace. As such, there is little need to saturate the various media outlets with confirmed news until Disney darn-well feels like it. Disney doesn’t have to lie, and director J.J. Abrams certainly shouldn’t proclaim that the film is full of incredible surprises or filled with plot twists unless the film delivers said things. But if nothing is confirmed, it is all speculation until Disney says otherwise.

The film doesn’t come out for another two years; there is no need to rush. The hardcore fans and the casually curious don’t actually need to know anything at this point.  It’s a new Star Wars movie. It’s going to be a massive smash hit no matter how much or how little information the fans know going into it. Disney has a chance to do it differently, to arguably do it right. Disney doesn’t need to tell us what the plot is going to be, nor does it need to slowly leak photos and interview tidbits in the months leading up to the picture. They don’t need to offer “scoops” to satiate the very people who are guaranteed to see it anyway. They can have complete and total silence until around May, 2015 and it won’t affect the film’s box office performance one bit.

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A teaser poster revealing the title to debut at this summer’s San Diego Comic Con and a teaser trailer attached to a major early summer 2015 release is all they need to convince people to start getting excited about this one. How wonderful would it be to not really know a darn thing about this new Star Wars film until we get that first teaser trailer attached to The Avengers: Age of Ultron or maybe Brad Bird’s Tomorrowland? And how wonderful would it be to not have anything spoiled other than one or maybe two trailers (preferably under two-minutes each), and a couple TV spots made up of footage from the trailers? Disney doesn’t have to feed the beast even as the release date gets closer. It doesn’t have to humor the movie news beast that demands constant information and copious new imagery until there is barely anything left to experience in the theater.

It’s Star Wars. We will all be there with bells on even if we don’t know a thing that’s about to unspool before our eyes. It worked with Disney’s Frozen late last year, with a somewhat misleading marketing campaign that withheld 90% of the story, most of the songs, and many of the character beats, stunning audiences with a film that was much better than advertised. It worked with Gravity with Warner Bros. revealing as little as humanly possible and allowing audiences to discover the incredible sights and sounds in a theater. And it worked with the majority of Chris Nolan pictures, including The Dark Knight Rises where, despite too many trailers and TV spots, the film entered the press screening stage with few people knowing any of the major story beats. And it darn-well can work with a property like Star Wars.  By eschewing the saturation marketing that has become the status quo, Disney can use Star Wars to sell the notion that audiences will show up for heavily-anticipated properties without knowing much of anything in advance.

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They don’t have to proclaim that they are hiding anything. They don’t have to engage in misdirection. They just have to say “See you on December 18th, 2015″ and go about their merry way. Heck, by spending less on marketing costs for preordained blockbusters, studios will have more to spend on marketing more challenging and/or original properties, so it’s a win/win for everyone. We live in an age so entitled to glorified pre-release plot summaries that campaigns like Prometheus, Brave, or Hancock that merely withheld second or third act information were considered shocking. But please note that all three of those films were profitable hits in the end.

It can work and it can be the rule rather than the exception. We desperately need a “new normal” where a certain amount of mystery and surprise is considered status-quo. They don’t need the copious spoiler-filled marketing materials to get us interested, so they have a chance to show the industry that most preordained blockbusters don’t need such tools either.

Disney and Lucasfilm are in a unique position. They can use Star Wars as a shining example of how to save film marketing from itself. Oh, and this time, try not to have a track on the score entitled “Luke’s Death” or “Han Solo’s Noble End”.

What do you guys think? Should Disney take a more secretive approach to the movie or the opposite?

24 comments

  1. I totally love the idear of this approach, go old school and leave the moviegoers in suspense, for a more thrilling experience! Do it Disney, and people would love ya for it!

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    1. No, I don’t think this approach is good at all. One of the reasons Phantom Menace is dissed by haters is because the film’s expectations were sky high, due to limited plot details and fertile imaginations. Because, let’s face it people, Phantom Menace in itself was NOT a bad movie….. It just couldn’t compete with millions of fanboys going “I wonder if this will happen, I wonder if that will happen….” for months on end.

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    2. Couldn’t disagree more. “Phantom Menace in itself was NOT a bad movie” … Did we see the same film? Even if TPM was not a Star Wars film and just a beginning to a different sci-fi franchise it would still be a horrible movie. I like the not knowing aspect – I remember when ROTJ opened and I knew nothing about it other than a 2 minute preview. It was fantastic to wonder ?@$*$ the story was going. Not knowing what was in TPM didn’t kill TPM – TPM was killed by bad writing and bad storytelling, in essence it killed itself (or you could say Lucas killed it).

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  2. As much as I will be pulling my hair out for details… this would be epic. It’s funny. I want details and information while at the same time knowing it lessens the impact. Total surprise would be amazing. I don’t go to movie theaters so it’ll be a long agonizing wait for me to get it on Blu-ray. Which by the way is a guarantee regardless or reviews.

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  3. BEST IDEA! Let’s hope SW7 team read it!

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  4. Yep, this is definitely the right way to go.

    In fact, wasn’t this already done with Star Trek Into Darkness? Very little was given away. We didn’t know who the bad guy was. The trailers revealed little, other than to give a general ‘feel’ of the movie. Come to think of it, I found the marketing more interesting and intriguing than the movie itself (but that’s really beside the point).

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  5. besides cast confirmation (the can keep new characters a secret) i think it is a great idea, all we really want is a confirmation on the big 3, the robots & other supporting characters from the old movies , there will be plenty of rumours & specualation anyway to fill this site for the next 2 years :)

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  6. I wonder if Disney will also hold off on releasing the spoiler-filled movie storybooks and visual companion guides till after the movie’s release… They won’t, and this is exactly why I don’t believe this strategy will work. You can’t keep a good thing secret for long. It is Star Wars people… Fans don’t deserve to be *%*# up in the dark.

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  7. The news on this site keeps getting worse and worse. First, there’s the possibility that we’re going to be stuck with the OT cast and won’t even get to see the new generation of Skywalkers in action till 2017… Now, there’s the possibility that we won’t even get to see ANYTHING concrete till December 2015.

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    1. Ohy you poor, baby! You have to wait until you actually see the movie to know the plot. You have to wait until 2017 before you can see new Skywalkers in action. Have you actually read what you posted? You sound like a spoiled brat!

      I’ve had to wait since 1983 for the SEquels (never wanteded the PREquels which I went to anyway). I think you and I can wait a few more months for details about the plot of the movie.

      BTW, I am actually looking forward to the OT cast returning. That’s something we didn’t get in the PREquels, except for the droids and Yoda.

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    2. Nothing worse than seeing the movie before you go to see the movie. They would be wise to keep information to a minimum. As long as they deliver on the final product then the fans will forgive them.

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    3. “First, there’s the possibility that we’re going to be stuck with the OT cast and won’t even get to see the new generation of Skywalkers in action till 2017… Now, there’s the possibility that we won’t even get to see ANYTHING concrete till December 2015. “

      So says the guy who’d rather Disney just throw us into a brand new story without a shred of familiarity from the OT. Think of what seeing characters like 3PO, Obi-Wan, Anakin and Cidious did for the fans who saw Ep I in theaters. You’d be watching the movie and think, “hey, I know what happens to that guy later on. I wonder what happened to him in the years leading up to that point.” That’s what kept us involved in the prequels. Waiting for that scene in episode III when Vader rises and we finally have the continuity of the films complete… until now. With Ep VII, that familiarity element is just as, if not more important than the PT. Now the audience wants to see where their favorite characters are 30 years since we’ve last seen them. Sure, the rebelion vanquished the emperor and prosperity was restored to the galaxy, but what about Yoda’s whole schpeal about there being another Skywalker? Does Leia ever pursue the destiny of her bloodline and become a Jedi? Does Luke ever go on to start a brand new order of Jedi? All of these questions are things that we want to see answered and by throwing us into completely new surrounding with nothing but hints at what happened to the OT characters, you would lose an enormous amount of the audience. People would see the trailer and think, “wait… This is Star Wars?” They need the return of iconic faces to the screen, at least for episode VII, so that when the torch is passed to the newer generation of heroes, both the fans and the general audience will feel comfortable with where they’ve been taken in the story and will be inclined to keep watching through Ep IX.

      Also, whether you like it or not, this marketing campaign would be best for Star Wars, if the fans can manage to wait that long. I’m sure some information will leak, but if it’s controlled, the anticipation for this movie alone will draw millions of people all over the world to the box office. What’s not smart about that from a producer’s standpoint?

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    4. Straight up dopeyjoe. Bringing in the OT cast will bring in ALL Star Wars fans, and millions more. It’ll be the MOVIE EVENT OF A LIFETIME!

      What kept us hanging on to the PT is we wanted to see how some of the OT characters got *e@!& they are. But what was missing from the PT were the heroes we fell in love with, we were with them through all the highs & lows of the OT. Now we want to know what happens to them.

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  8. I think that it’s a noble goal, but technically very hard to accomplish. The Empire Strikes Back’s I am Your Father twist was spoiled by multiple magazines and such, and the fact that Vader = Father in German. The reason most didn’t know in advance was because the internet hadn’t been invented.

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    1. Yeap, Al Gore didn’t get around to it by 1980.

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    2. “Vader” is father in dutch, not german, Father in german is “Vater”

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  9. Not sure that letting people in the dark is the best idea.
    Star Wars isn’t only about the movies. It’s also about the whole atmosphere it generates long before the release of an episode. And that’s probably part of the fun.
    I just hope they will get the balance right between too much information and not enough. What a challenge!
    And I hope my message is readable. I’m not an English speaker. Sorry if it seems confused!

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    1. Part of the fun of seeing a big movie for the first time is the surprises/twists of the movie. You never get that back. If you go into a movie already knowing what’s going to happen, you never have that and never will. Part of my own personal dislike for the prequels is that we knew going in the little boy was eventually going to be Darth Vader. There was no real big suprise like in The Empire Strikes Back when Vader revealed to Luke that he was his father. I guess you could say that the only suprise about the prequels were how bad they were.

      I’d like to know if the OT cast is in the movie and that’s really enough for me.

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  10. Perhaps they should also consider releasing the novel adaptation after the film is released. It would minimize spoilers leaking before the film’s release. I think all previous Star Wars film novels were released a few weeks prior to their respective film openings.

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  11. The tricky thing is that they will want to financially capitalize on the rising anticipation. It seems like that would be very difficult to do without revealing information about the movie. Hopefully they find a way to do it that teases us instead of giving away the store.

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  12. Gee, a movie marketing campaign that doesn’t give the whole flippin’ plot away in the trailers and that doesn’t wear out the characters with endless advertisements and marketing tie-ins months before the movie is released?

    That would be mighty refreshing indeed.

    Unfortunately, I can’t see the Mouse not saturating the market with Episode VII pre-release promotional dreck. Aside from those of us who go on a spoiler blackout once the marketing push begins, I expect that everyone will basically know the whole damned story well before the film is released.

    But an old-school, understated, “teaser” oriented marketing campaign for Episode VII would be a really nice surprise.

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  13. I think it would be cool to not know @#t! beforehand but it doesn’t seem possible with the internet and the way media chases down any and all information that’s out there. The days of going into a movie and being surprised has been gone for awhile. You would have to literally stay off your computer, watch only selective television, and avoid mags, newspapers, etc.
    It would be really cool to be surprised but it isn’t going to happen.

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  14. I want a dark story full of plot twists, oldschool star wars style for sure! we dont want to prevent the entire movie just by watching a dumb trailer…

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  15. this is good for customers the competition between companies.the good outlet is coming.Thank you

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