What Star Wars: The Force Awakens Can Teach Us About Word-of-Mouth

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“A long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away…”

These words opened the original Star Wars: A New Hope in 1977. It’s 2015 and by now they are entrenched in the global cultural consciousness, right on time for the release of the new film.

South Africa has been lucky enough to offer the earliest screening in the world, and the new film is expected to shatter box-office records.

The Star Wars franchise has always been a beautifully bankable proposition, but never more so than after LucasArts sold the rights to Disney. Never mind the film, the marketing department has produced a work of art in and of itself, with its seemingly omnipotent strategy which allows the enormous fan community to do much the leg work.

Star Wars and its fans know word of mouth.

So, what lessons can you learn from this media phenomenon that can be applied to your growing business?

Hit hyperdrive and launch your business into a galaxy far, far ahead of the competition. How? Read on, and may the force be with you.

1. Create a rock-solid foundation

What Star Wars has is an unequaled content ecosystem. This was set in motion by the original product (the first film), which was successful, spawned other films and generated a self-perpetuating mythology. It is this mythology or social capital which has captured the attention of a global audience for a third of a century.

The new film has also shown this to be a brilliant tactic. By playing on the mythology of the brand they have created quality, engaging content like trivia questions, sneak peeks, and behind the scenes footage.

The point then is to make sure that your business’ hook is a quality product or service. If what you are offering is well thought-out, well-made, and well-tailored to your target audience, then you will have satisfied customers, and it’s a fact that satisfied customers tell potential customers about your brand.

2. Learn from past mistakes

If you haven’t seen the Star Wars prequels, then maybe you’ve heard about them in the form of sneers, grunts, or sighs of disappointment. Any die-hard Star Wars fan will tell you, they were a travesty.

The new film has obviously done something right, judging by the rave reviews and ticket sales. This is a case where the fans have spoken and the creators have listened. They took it back to basics, eschewing CGI in favour of technical effects and keeping true to the brand’s DNA.

When it comes to word-of-mouth marketing, Star Wars fans show that it can go one of two ways: success or serious trouble.

Take the franchise’s lesson to heart. When customers take issue with what your business is offering, don’t shut them down, delete their comments or respond with anger. Listen to them.

Take the opportunity to show your customer that you care, by doing this you will create a culture of positive criticism which will make people far more likely to give your brand a try.

3. Engage with your fans

Word-of-mouth works because people trust other people more than an anonymous marketing campaign. It works even better when your customers are fiercely loyal. But, the cliché goes that love turns most easily to hate, and great passion can inspire reactions on both ends of the spectrum.

Star Wars couldn’t afford to let their biggest fans down even slightly, so they created a whole department simply to ensure that supporters were being continually engaged. They responded to thousands upon thousands of letters, and even took on suggestions.

The lesson? Keep your customers in the loop. Respond to their suggestions, comments, and complaints. Make sure you are giving them something back for their support.

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