Wednesday, January 15, 2014

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


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”.

star wars

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.

star wars

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.

star wars

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?