What Traditional Media Can Learn From 'Star Wars'

Ivan Pollard From London

By Published on .

You might be expecting to read about the excesses of Cannes and all that goes on in France, but that will be left to others as I concentrate on something I know a little more about ... wizened little green fellas and metal bikinis.

It's hard to believe it's 30 years since "Star Wars" was released. Thirty years and still going. You have to hand it to Mr. George Lucas -- the man is a genius in so many ways, but the one that is most relevant to this column is his acumen as a market-making content owner.

In 1977, the idea of turning a movie idea into a global brand was a novelty. That is not to say that other movies had not become "brands" -- "The Graduate," "The Sound of Music," and "A Clockwork Orange" produced some strange teenagers in the 1970s -- but the idea of transferring the power of those brands to sell other products was novel.
Ivan Pollard
Ivan Pollard is a partner at Naked Communications, London, a communications-strategy shop with offices in six countries.

He made it work then, and it works even better now. He's had some pretty clever people working for him since then to keep the franchise alive, to keep the brand strong and to keep the revenue flowing. Love the movies or not, you have to admire the enterprise.

The latest manifestation of the Lucas film machine to hit these shores was the celebration of the "Star Wars" 30th anniversary. The U.K. is the second-biggest market worldwide for all things Jedi, so it came as no surprise that our biggest movie magazine, Empire, chose to join in. What was surprising was the way it went about it -- producing 30 separate collectible covers each featuring a different "Star Wars" character.

We've gotten used to the idea that new technologies are killing old media but we forget that the clever media owners are turning some of this technology to their advantage. The cost restrictions, mechanics and logistics of producing and distributing 30 covers would have not been surmountable five years ago.

Magazines are masters of finding ways of shoring up their business -- competitions, shorter lifecycles -- but they sometimes smack of desperation. This wizard idea was more like inspiration.

You can see an interesting future where the old media and the new owners/producers of content will rewrite the rules of what is possible. Empire is just one imaginative example of this happening and there are many more.

As someone might have said, "Applaud it, you must."
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