Star Wars and Disney Reveal: The Force of Content Marketing
If Flash Gordon Didn’t Reject George Lucas, We’d Never Have Star Wars
It was 1973 and George Lucas was still riding the wave of success from his first commercially successful movie American Graffiti.
He then began thinking about the type of movie he wanted to make next. As he thought about this, he remembered the Flash Gordon movies that he loved watching as a kid.
He began thinking, “What if those movies could be redone, but this time made with better effects?”
With that thought in his mind, he decided to try and get the rights to make a new Flash Gordon movie.
Finally, he decided that if they wouldn’t give him the rights, then he’d write his own space film. So he began writing his film, which he titled Adventures of the Starkiller, Episode I: The Star Wars.
After many major revisions, the title would be shortened to simply Star Wars and the story would be developed into the epic film we all know today.
As unbelievable as it sounds, if George Lucas could’ve obtained the rights to Flash Gordon, then Star Wars would’ve never come to be.
Sidebar: The clip below shows that Lucas is paying homage to Flash Gordon in Stars Wars opening crawl.
The Force of Content Marketing
If you are reading this post, I can assume you know what content marketing is and understand the need for it.
But you are about to see that the almost-invisible forces of content marketing are much more powerful and prevalent than you’ve ever imagined.
I am about to pull back the curtain and reveal how one of the top three media companies in the world uses the force of content marketing in a way that most people never realize.
I’ve written before about the amazing content marketing methods that Walt Disney used and how The Walt Disney Company later has continued that tradition.
I’ve also written before about how George Lucas kept Star Wars alive all these years by using content marketing.
Well, since Disney now owns Lucasfilms (since 2012), that means that the two content marketing juggernauts have combined forces.
Today, I want to show you some powerful lessons we can learn from the way Disney is using content marketing to promote their new movie Star Wars: the Force Awakens.
And in the process, we’re going to uncover the unbelievable reach and power of content marketing.
Disney Is Way Bigger Than You Think It Is
Before I show you some of the ways they’re using content marketing to promote Star Wars, I need to make sure you realize exactly what I mean when I say “Disney”.
When most people think of The Walt Disney Company they think that means Disney Channel, Disneyland, Disney World, and maybe people some think of Radio Disney.
But in reality, that doesn’t even make up half of what is really owned by The Walt Disney Company.
Let me show you what I mean by just showing you a partial list of companies that The Walt Disney Company owns:
- ESPN Internet Group
- Soccernet.com (60%)
Production & Distribution
- Walt Disney Pictures
- Touchstone Pictures
- Hollywood Pictures
- Caravan Pictures
- Miramax Films
- Buena Vista Home Entertainment
- Marvel Studios
- Buena Vista Music Group
- Hollywood Records
- Lyric Street Records
- Mammoth Records
- Walt Disney Records
- The Disney Channel
- ESPN (partial ownership with Hearst)
- A&E (partial ownership with Hearst and GE)
- The History Channel (partial ownership with Hearst and GE)
- Lifetime (partial ownership with Hearst)
- E! (partial ownership with Comcast, MediaOne and Liberty Media)
- 10 other television stations
- Buena Vista Television
- Touchstone Television
- Walt Disney Television Animation
- ABC Radio Networks
- Radio Disney
- ESPN Radio
- 27 other radio stations
And this isn’t even a complete list!
I wanted to you to see this, because I don’t want you to look at some of the examples I am about to give you and think, “That’s not content marketing from Disney! That’s from ABC!”
Because ABC IS Disney! And so is ESPN, etc.
Ok, now that you understand this, let me show you some of the ways that Disney has been using content marketing to promote Star Wars.
The Amazing, Widespread Ways That Disney Has Been Using Content Marketing to Promote Star Wars: The Force Awakens
In a recent Fortune.com article, Disney’s ‘Star Wars’ Practically Markets Itself, Robert Hackett says this about Star Wars: The Force Awakens, “The cultural phenomenon is itself a self-propelling rocket ship.”
I completely agree with Hackett that Star Wars gets much more word-of-mouth marketing than just about any other movie.
But I think the REAL reason Disney has been able to spend less on it’s marketing and it’s advertising is because it has been using so much content marketing.
- Disney premiered the final trailer for Star Wars: The Force Awakens during halftime of ESPN’s Monday Night Football on October 19 (their company).
- Star Wars: The Force Awakens has been mentioned on ABC (their company) 449 times over the past two months alone! (And these haven’t just been “mentions”. In many of these instances, Star Wars was written into the story-line somehow.)
- It has been mentioned 111 times on ESPN.
- It’s been mentioned 93 times on ESPN2.
- Star Wars: The Force Awakens has also been featured on Good Morning America and Jimmy Kimmel.
Do you see why I say that Disney is using content marketing to promote the movie?
But this is all just from three of Disney’s companies. Remember how many companies Disney owns? A lot more!
Two More Examples of Disney’s Content Marketing for Star Wars: The Force Awakens
I won’t/can’t name all the other ways that they’re using content marketing to promote Star Wars: The Force Awakens, but let give you a two more examples of how Disney is creating content marketing:
1) Disney Channel: A Behind the Scenes Special for Star Wars: The Force Awakens
On Friday, November 13th, Disney Channel aired a behind the scenes look at Star Wars: The Force Awakens. Below is the TV ad for this special.
2) Star Wars: The Force Awakens Play Set for Disney Infinity
Don’t think that Disney is just focusing on TV content in their content marketing. Disney Interactive Studios (which I didn’t list in the companies they own) is the company behind Disney Infinity.
They are releasing a Star Wars: The Force Awakens Infinity Play Set, which releases on the day that the movie comes out.
(If you’re wondering what the content marketing is in this, the content marketing is the game itself. No kid that gets this game will be able to resist seeing the movies.)
Disney’s Content Strategy Also Involves Others
Before I reveal some content marketing lessons we can learn from Disney, I want to show you that Disney isn’t just focused on creating all of the content marketing for Star Wars: The Force Awakens on their own.
They have approached other companies and partnered with them to get them to create content for/about the movie too.
Here are two examples:
1. Disney in Deal with Maker Studios
According to Bloomberg.com, Disney has approached Maker Studios, one of the largest operators of YouTube channels, to create Star Wars-themed content covering everything from Star Wars fashion to games.
And, get this, Disney is paying upwards of $450 million for it, if the targets are met!
But Maker Studios, isn’t the only company Disney has partnered with to create content.
2. Disney in Deal with Google
TheDisneyBlog.com reports that “A new promotion between Disney and Google encourages Star Wars fans to choose the dark side or the light to customize their Google experience. Soon there will be a Virtual Reality App to use within Google Cardboard Virtual Reality that will include new immersive experiences. All this to celebrate Lucasfilm’s much-anticipated ‘Star Wars: The Force Awakens.’”
Now please don’t believe, even for a second, that any of these mentions of the new movie are accidental.
Disney CEO Bob Iger told The HolywoodReporter.com, “…everything we have done to date has been extremely deliberate, and we have a carefully constructed and deliberate plan going forward in terms of what we roll out in the marketplace in terms of product and marketing.”
This is all a part of the amazing content marketing that Disney is seamlessly producing across all it’s companies.
And this is all taken straight from the “playbook” of the content marketing strategies that Walt Disney himself used.
Take a look at this hand-drawn infographic that Walt Disney created to explain his multifaceted business model to investors and you’ll see what I mean…
Do you see how much of his business model harnesses the power of content marketing?
And do you see how The Walt Disney Company is still using many of these same methods to promote Star Wars: The Force Awakens?
3 Content Marketing Strategies We Can Learn from Disney Promoting Star Wars: The Force Awakens
Some of you might be thinking, “That’s great for Disney, but how can this help me?”
Well. there are many important lessons that we can learn from Disney’s example. But let me just give you a three of them:
1] Focus on a variety of types of content
Most content marketers focus on one or possibly two types of content (probably text and video). But Disney focuses on any and all types of content that they can.
Just from the examples I used above, you see they’ve focused on:
- Branded experiences
By doing this, they are maximizing the audience that they can reach, instead of limiting themselves to only reaching readers, or people who watch videos, or gamers, etc.
Your First 2016 Content Strategy Suggestion:
Instead of focusing on your default content mode, purposely choose a form of content you don’t usually create and begin to brainstorm with your team ways that you can begin implementing this type of content in 2016.
2] Focus on creating new content channels
Most companies have one form of “owned media.” This is great, but it’s limiting. As I showed you, Disney has its business tentacles everywhere! It has “owned media” everywhere you turn!
Just from the examples I used above, you can see that they’re focused on:
- Animated movies
- Live-action movies
- Sports Broadcasting
- Music / Radio
By doing this, they have created more arenas where they can cross-promote their products, services, properties, and stories.
Your Second 2016 Content Strategy Suggestion:
If you have already created an effective and profitable content “channel”, then it’s time for you to create another. But, of course, make sure to do it wisely and strategically. And make sure to do like Disney does and use your current channel to promote your new channel!
(If you haven’t created an effective and profitable content channel, then that should be your goal.)
3] Focus on content partners
Most companies, by default, focus mainly on creating all of their own content marketing. Creating your own content is great. But you need to realize that when you do this, you limit the reach (and influence) of your content.
Think about it. Even Disney, with the amazing reach and influence that they have, doesn’t do this!
Just from the examples I used above, you can see that they’ve focused on partnering with:
- Companies that have major influence on their target audience
- Companies that already have a large audience and long reach
- Companies that have an audience that would like Star Wars
By reaching out to other companies, Disney is able to keep Star Wars: The Force Awakens in front of us more often and increase the “social proof” for the movie. (Not that the movie needs it!)
Your Third 2016 Content Strategy Suggestion
In the new year, you need to create more types of content and increase your channels, but you also need to begin to look for partners to create your content.
Some of these partners might need to be paid, but I bet there are companies and individuals that would be glad to do this for free, if you created content for them too.
Invisible Content Marketing
When you see an amateur do something, such as acting, all the techniques and methods are obvious and at the forefront of their performance.
But when a professional is acting they have so internalized it – and moved beyond methods and techniques, to acting as a form of art – that acting has become effortless and you can’t even tell they’re acting anymore.
The professional has made their acting become invisible.
That’s what Disney has done. They have so mastered the art of content marketing that it has become invisible in their hands.
But now that I’ve pulled back the curtain for you, I hope you see “the invisible” and understand just how powerful and prevalent content marketing can really be.
Now it’s your turn to use their example as inspiration and master the art yourself.