Did you notice anything unusual about the conversations you had on Friday, May 4? Star Wars fans and nerds everywhere know the fourth of May is a special day, but some of you may have been surprised to hear your cashiers and coworkers uttering phrases like “May the Fourth be with you,” throughout the day.
Contrary to popular belief, #StarWarsDay is not tied to the film’s anniversary or even the official Star Wars Day (May 25). It was created by clever Star Wars fans who simply couldn’t resist seizing the opportunity to make a play on the film’s famous phrase: “May the Force be with you.”
It’s been a few days since the fourth (we hit a little snag in the space/time continuum here at Banyan Branch), but we felt it would be exciting to examine Star Wars’ cultural impact. How does a low budget sci-fi movie from the 70s come to define so much of modern American culture? Here are some of our favorite examples of how Star Wars fans are pushing the envelope to replicate the future (or the past, if you want to get technical) they fell in love with as a kid:
- “Help me Obi-Wan Kenobi, you’re my only hope.” – Princess Leia. Scientists in the UK are busy trying to create holographic projectors just like the one R2D2 used to deliver his all important message from Princess Leia. Tupac may have been the first hologram to break into mainstream entertainment, but he won’t be the last.
- “In my experience there is no such thing as luck.” – Obi Wan Kenobi. NASA is working on creating “smart SPHERES” inspired by the hovering droid that shoots lasers at Luke Skywalker when he is learning to use the Force. Would you expect anything less from the engineers who grew up with Star Wars?
- “Imperial troops have entered the base! Imperial troops have entered the [static]” – Rebel commander on the ice planet Hoth. Researchers working for the United States Military are working on technologies that would give our troops a serious leg up (or four) on the battlefield. Designing military grade walking robots can’t be easy, but these nerds are no doubt having the time of their lives working on real-life AT-ATs.
- “Everything is proceeding as I have foreseen.” – Emperor Palpatine. The design of the new window on the International Space Station looks a lot like the inside of a Tie fighter. Sure, there are plenty of science-based explanations for why this is (pressure distribution and stuff like that), but it’s not hard to imagine these engineers were influenced by the Star Wars design aesthetic.
- “Do or do not do, there is no try.” – Yoda. Now for my personal favorite: In the UK you can actually mark “Jedi” as your religion on the census form, and in 2001 almost 400,000 people declared their allegiance to the light side of the force.
What does all this mean for your brand? #StarWarsDay was only “formally” established in 2011 after a totally organic grassroots movement of dedicated fans built it up. George Lucas and Co. knew a good thing when they saw it
and have since encouraged the movement to continue by offering special e-cards, events and deals to celebrate the day.
In today’s YouTube society, artists and musicians also recognize the value of encouraging and celebrating fan art and fan covers. Can you imagine Gotye’s “Somebody That I Used to Know” becoming the hit song it is without the many fan covers that have been released since it came out?
Not all brands can hope to achieve the gravitas of Star Wars, but letting your fans influence the marketing and communications decisions you make is a lesson everyone can learn from. The (likely) increase in sales of Star Wars merchandise on this day alone should prove to every marketing manager why encouraging fans to show their creativity can be a huge boon to the bottom line.
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