Sam Rose - Head of Content

Sam Rose

27th April 2015

Star Wars: The Force Awakens – How To Build Anticipation

If you’re a bit of a Star Wars fan or you live with one, chances are you’ll already be clued-up on the details of Episode VII, to be released in the not-so-distant future. And if you’re not a fan you’ll at least be vaguely aware of its existence – it’s been planned for quite some time now, and wannabe Jedis have been given plenty to think about.

Lucasfilm has been building anticipation for the movie – titled ‘Star Wars: The Force Awakens’ – through a series of video, image and information releases. The timeline below shows some of the details that have been released so far (this is by no means an extensive list):

Timeline of Events

Movie release date announced – 8th November 2013
Movie title announced – 6th November 2014
First teaser trailer released – 28th November 2014
Second teaser trailer released – 16th April 2015
Movie release date – 18th December 2015

So as we can see, information started trickling out about the movie over two years before its release date. While your product launch is unlikely to span such a long timeline (or, unfortunately, be quite as anticipated as the new addition to this legendary saga), there are still plenty of things to take on board from the way Lucasfilm has been drip-feeding us news and teasers for the movie. Whether you are launching your new website, an e-book, a product or a brand, there are similar things you can do to get people excited.

The first thing we know – and not just from Star Wars, but from any movie – is to not just release something and say “here it is”. Anticipation is an art form in its execution, but it also requires meticulous planning and thought.

Lucasfilm officially became a wholly owned subsidiary of Disney on 21st December 2012, and it would seem that since then they have been working on a well-thought-out marketing plan to build anticipation.

So far we have seen two teaser trailers for the movie, the second in particular offering a healthy dose of nostalgia provided through music and setting, essentially saying “we’re giving you more of what you love.” So the point here is: show customers – especially those who are familiar with you already - that you’re offering something they’re going to want, and it’s more of the same great stuff you’ve done before.

Although two teaser trailers have been released there is no sign of the official movie trailer just yet (though if they don’t do something on May 4th they’re kind of missing a trick). The full-length trailer itself will give us more insight into the movie, and is surely anticipated by fans, and made even more exciting thanks to the shorter teaser trailers we have seen so far. Imagine that – teasers that get your customers excited about seeing more teasers.

If you’re releasing a product or new content, such as an e-book, a podcast or a video, you could do something similar with a teaser, be it in the form of a chapter or a short audio or video clip. But before you do that, you might also want to do something else Lucasfilm has done - release just a few details of what’s to come.

For example, one of the burning questions regarding the Episode VII release was where on the Star Wars timeline it would be sitting. We found out on 18th March 2014 that the new movie is set 30 years after Return of the Jedi. The cast was then revealed on 29th April 2014.

Images have also been released, including this photo tweeted by Star Wars director JJ Abrams in June 2014:

The note reads: “I wish people would stop leaking photos from Episode VII. And making ridiculous claims that the Millennium Falcon is in the movie.”

Sounds pretty uninteresting and not at all exciting, until you realise that the surface the note is resting on is none other than the chess board Chewbacca and R2D2 played on inside the Millennium Falcon in Episode IV: A New Hope. “Aha!” fans exclaim. That’s how to get people talking and give them what they want – “Let the wookiee win”, indeed.

Lucasfilm aren’t just building anticipation for the seventh movie - we haven’t even had Episode VII yet and already some details of Episode VIII have been revealed ahead of its release on 26th May, 2017. The message marketers can replicate? “There is a lot to look forward here – you can rely on us to give you what you want, and we’re not going anywhere.”

Suddenly the timeline of events and releases starts to look a lot fuller (again, this is still not an extensive list):

Timeline of Events

Movie release date announced – 8th November 2013
Movie setting revealed – 18th March 2014
Cast revealed – 29th April 2014
Millennium Falcon photo tweeted – 5th June 2014
Movie title announced – 6th November 2014
First teaser trailer released – 28th November 2014
Episode VIII title and release date announced – 12th March 2015
Second teaser trailer released, as well as behind the scenes images – 16th April 2015
Episode VIII plot details revealed – 19th April 2015
Episode VII release date – 18th December 2015
Episode VIII release date – 26th May 2017

How you release your own information and teasers is up to you, but blogs, social media, your website and good old-fashioned word of mouth are all valuable information outlets. Maybe some of your teasers will be exclusive content emailed to particular customers. This is a good way to make people feel special or even part of an inner circle with privileged, inside information.

Just remember to not reveal everything all at once – building anticipation means holding some things back and leaving people wanting more. Plan your reveals into your social calendar, and stick to it – it may be tempting to rush out a product, but if you get people interested right from the start, the results will be even better.

May the force be with you!

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