Is the Force With You?

x_wing_bike_r2d2When a movie pulls in more than $500 million over a single weekend, it is time to fire up the marketing team.

It doesn’t matter what, it doesn’t matter how — and as this post (shamelessly) evidences — just do something to leverage the “Star Wars: The Force Awakens” mania.

To be sure, there are official product tie-ins. Here are just some:

But no financial services companies, despite the fact that “Star Wars: The Force Awakens” is not just an exceptional movie (according to this viewer), but is the top movie event of the modern entertainment era.

Or is it a top promotional opportunity for financial services?

Tim Calkins, a clinical professor of marketing at the Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University, argues that Star Wars “tie-in saturation” could be an issue.

How does a particular brand stand out with so many other products emblazoned with the Star Wars name and character images—especially if a product does not have a logical association with the movie, its theme, or images? …

[I]t comes down to relevancy and not stretching the plausibility of a product tie-in. Breakfast cereals, with a history of featuring icons from sports figures to cartoon characters, seem ripe for a Star Wars tie-in. (General Mills launched a Star Wars cereal with fruit-flavored light sabers, Yoda, R2D2, and Stormtroopers.) However, that same relevancy factor means we probably mean won’t ever see a high-end Star Wars tie-in, the likes of Tiffany or Rolex. In order to get the most out of a Star Wars tie-in, marketers need to unleash the force of this power brand to put their own products in the right light—without succumbing to the dark side of jumping on a branding bandwagon that does not produce returns.

Can financial services marketers do that? I think so, especially for major advertisers, but then again, I’m a Star Wars geek.

It is interesting that money and finances have little role in the Star Wars storyline. [Spoiler alert] Toward the beginning of the movie, the protagonist, a character named Rey, collects scrap metal not for money or “credits,” but for rehydratable bread. There is a theory going around how the evil Empire in the movie faces “an economic depression of astronomical proportions,” but that’s about as close to a “banking” angle in the whole Star Wars epoch.

But this seems to be just a cosmetic shortcoming. Consider what actress Elizabeth Banks told Ellen DeGeneres recently:

“The Hunger Games” star told Ellen DeGeneres during an appearance on her talk show Tuesday that her kids Magnus Mitchell, 3, and Felix, 4 — who she said are “very close” — are “obsessed with Darth Vader.”

“They’re all about Star Wars,” she says. “They don’t really know anything about Star Wars. I don’t know how Star Wars is doing it, but they’ve possessed my children.”

If that doesn’t merit a marketing tie in, I don’t know what does.

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