Star Wars: Episode VII – The Force Awakens is not out until December, but the flick is already is generating some serious buzz. Last week, the film released its second trailer, revealing new characters and inspiring an amusing Interstellar mashup. The action-packed trailer delighted the franchise’s growing fan base, which has attracted a loyal following since the first Star Wars movie came out nearly 40 years ago.
Companies can learn a lot from the enduring popularity of Star Wars. If you can ignite the passion of your customers in the same way that Star Wars does with its fans, you can drive customer loyalty and revenue.
As a recent New York Times story revealed, the success of the Star Wars community is no accident. It’s a result of a focus on the fans. Here are three lessons companies can take from the Star Wars approach to community-building:
- Build and support your community.
Star Wars has mastered the art of harnessing the power of its community. That’s because Lucasfilm, the studio behind the franchise, has prioritized engagement with fans throughout the years.
“At a time when creating—and controlling—fan communities has become crucial to the success of all kinds of movies, the company that remains the most skilled at that art is Lucasfilm,” the New York Times notes.
The studio organizes events that allow it to directly engage with fans on a regular basis. Exhibitions, online events on StarWars.com and biennial conventions called Star Wars Celebration attract thousands of amateur Jedis, Wookiees and Stormtroopers.
The studio is so committed to fan engagement that it has a full-time head of fan relations, whose main responsibility is to nurture the community. The company is also known to hire new employees from its fan base.
When it comes to community-building, companies need to follow Yoda’s advice: “‘Do’ or ‘do not’. There is no ‘try’.” Companies can’t build a loyal community of customers if they’re not fully committed to doing so.
When it comes to community-building, companies need to follow Yoda’s advice: “‘Do’ or ‘do not’. There is no ‘try’.” (CLICK TO TWEET)
- Co-create with your customers.
Fan contributions help fuel the success of Star Wars Celebration. For the latest instalment of the convention, many of the 115 panels offered “were created with direct fan involvement,” says the New York Times.
In a blog post earlier this year, the franchise explained the importance of fan contribution to its events: “An integral part of every Star Wars Celebration is what fans bring to the event, both informally and as part of the official program. Just like Bantha Tracks, with the motto, ‘By the Fans; For the Fans,’ Celebrations are as much fun as they are because fans are involved; because they contribute talent, energy, ideas, and creativity.”
Companies need to learn from Star Wars and be open to the possibility that their customers have valuable ideas to add to the table. Customers want to be involved and they want to be heard. Getting contributions from your customers is easier than ever: from crowdsourcing to co-creation activities, there are many ways companies can tap into the collective wisdom of their customers to gain insight.
- Be responsive.
The New York Times notes that Lucasfilm “stands apart when it comes to fan monitoring and responsiveness.” The company has staff members who are tasked to respond to emails, tweets, Facebook messages “constantly, all day,” reveals Matt Martin, Lucasfilm’s manager of digital content and community relations. “I know the hardest core of the hard core, and I try to respond to those people immediately. We try really hard to answer absolutely everything.”
While many studios simply dump fan mail in the trash or send out form-letter responses, the people at Lucasfilm respond to each letter. For instance, when seven-year-old Colin Gilpatric asked why Jedi Knights aren’t supposed to marry, he received a response, explaining that Jedis could in fact marry in some instances. The letter was written in Jedi language and included gifts for Gilpatric.
“For them to give him that little piece of magic will make our entire family forever loyal,” says Peggy Gilpatric, Colin’s mom.
In the age of social media, customers expect companies to listen. Star Wars demonstrates that responding to customers is worth the investment. Doing so builds loyalty, which is critical in today’s competitive business environment.
Star Wars shows that being responsive to fans and customers is worth the investment. (CLICK TO TWEET)
In an age when the movie industry is in turmoil, the enduring popularity of Star Wars demonstrates the value of having a solid fan community. Throughout the decades, the franchise has attracted millions of new followers by focusing on engagement and showing love for its fans. With The Force Awakens, the franchise is set to gain a new generation of fans. Engagement with the franchise’s growing fan community is a force that will fuel the success of the new movie when it finally arrives in December.
For more ideas on how to show your love for your customers, download The Four Tenets of Customer Love, an ebook authored by Tyler Douglas, chief marketing officer of Vision Critical.
Photo credit: The Conmunity: Pop Culture Geek