Star Wars Ads – is it Still a Secret Way of Going Viral

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Dec 7, 2015
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Star Wars Going Viral

Recently, I am under the impression that Star Wars is everywhere.

Marketers offer BBQ tongues imitating lightsabers, Jedi burgers and Darth Vader imprinting toasters. We can buy Death Star cookie jars, Millennium Falcon bottle openers and R2D2 engagement rings.

And although I love everything about Star Wars (except for Jar Jar Binks), I feel like I’m tired with all these Star Wars references. In fact, they do not have anything to do with Star Wars itself, it’s more like marketers are desperately trying to go viral.

Don’t get me wrong, I guess all of us were excited seeing first Star Wars influenced ads, but now it’s just too much. Today, when I’m writing this post, I saw Star Wars commercials made by Dodge, Fiat, Chrysler, Jeep and Ram Trucks!

I think it's the time to ask ourselves: do such overused pop-culture references really work? It worked for the first and second time, can it work for the tenth time as well?

In today’s post you’ll learn how to create viral content and why we should rather watch Star Wars in cinemas, not in TV ads.

What makes us share

There is no easy recipe for going viral. You can create the most expensive, high-quality content and even advertise it, but if people don't fall in love with it, they won’t share it.

And what people love?

They love sharing stories, news and information that are important for them.

If you have read Olga’s post about word of mouth, you surely remember STEPPS, Jonah Berger’s six principles that make us share:

The more STEPPS elements people will recognize in your content, the more chances it will have for going viral.

You don’t have to stick to every single key point, you can treat them as tips on how to create your content. Actually, you can rely on only one or more of them and even this can make your products or ideas more contagious.

STEPPS describes the nature of viral content, but I’d say it’s just a general guideline to follow, a kind of checklist you can use to improve your content.

If you want a more precise recipe for going viral, I would reduce it to four ingredients:

It may sound overly simple, but the sharing mechanism is simple: if people like what they see, they post it!

This is exactly why so many marketers use Star Wars references for years: because pop-culture and popular event references are goldmines. The space saga is loved by people all around the world and a new movie is going to be released very soon. It looks like a perfect viral-trigger.

But since so many ads and messages are Star Wars related, is there still a chance of going viral? Do Star Wars references still work?

"I suggest a new strategy, R2"

One of the most shared and powerful ads of all times is Volkswagen commercial “The Force”. It was created in 2011, a year before LucasFilm was acquired by Disney for over $4 billion and before anyone dreamed about a new Star Wars movie.

This ad, created by the Deutsch agency, was first aired a couple of days before the 2011 Super Bowl and became an instant hit. It has gained 17 million views before the kickoff and now, with over 63 million Youtube views, it’s the most shared Super Bowl ad of all-time and the second most shared TV commercial ever.

The secret of its great success was perfectly described by Josh Sanburn from Time magazine:

It was a perfect combination: the enduring popularity of Star Wars, childhood nostalgia, touching moments between a father and son, a narrative arc that went tidily from conflict to resolution, and plenty of humor thanks to a 6-year-old dressed as a notorious movie villain.

If we look at the recipe of going viral, everything is there. People were sharing this ad because it was reflecting their passion (Star Wars), they thought it would be useful (their friends could be looking for a new car) and because the ad was surprising, cute and funny.

Now, at the end of 2015, with everyone talking about Star Wars, no one would say making Star Wars references is surprising. I’d even say more: it’s overused.

At the beginning of this post I’ve mentioned a couple of new car commercials that refer to Star Wars (in hope of going viral, as we can guess). All of them were published on Youtube 3 days ago and they don’t look like they are a great, viral wins:

It seems like most of today’s marketers should get inspired by Mike Sheldon’s, Deutsch’s CEO’s words:

When everybody else is screaming, the one whispering stands out.

A perfect example of "whispering why everybody else is screaming" is Volvo. While most of marketers take part in the Star Wars craziness, Volvo trucks has aired a commercial where a 4-year-old test drives a full-size truck.

This ad was also released 3 days ago and since then it was seen on Youtube 2.494.937 times.

That’s what I call a viral video!

The secret of going viral

In spite of what many marketers think, going viral is something more than just being trendy. People quickly get bored with recurring motifs and this is why creatives should always look for new, surprising ideas, filled with emotions and telling great stories.

The first rule of going viral is to create unexpected content and not trying to be neutral or too safe.

And if we really, really have to use the trending topic, let’s try to show it a bit differently!

People will appreciate it.

Lego Star Wars Going Viral

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