38 Star Wars Marketing Campaigns That Will Inspire You

The Force is cer­tain­ly strong with these Star Wars mar­ket­ing cam­paigns.

Lisa Lacy By Lisa Lacy. Join the discussion » 0 comments

The Star Wars fran­chise has cap­ti­vat­ed audi­ences for near­ly four decades and pulled in more than $3 bil­lion at the box office alone. This cul­tur­al and adver­tis­ing jug­ger­naut has also spawned its own hol­i­day, enabling its most pas­sion­ate fans to joy­ous­ly bestow the Force upon one anoth­er each May 4. Accord­ing to reports, May 4 cel­e­bra­tions began in earnest in 2011. Nat­u­ral­ly, brands and mar­keters soon fol­lowed.


It’s a fran­chise that has bro­ken records time and time again and, accord­ing to the Amer­i­can Mar­ket­ing Asso­ci­a­tion, “Star Wars: Episode IV — A New Hope” changed mar­ket­ing for­ev­er upon its release on May 25, 1977, becom­ing the first movie to real­ly har­ness mer­chan­dis­ing pow­er – and sub­se­quent­ly sell­ing $20 bil­lion worth of goods. Fur­ther, by some accounts, Star Wars is now the world’s most pow­er­ful brand. In the con­tent-heavy atmos­phere we live in, it’s easy to find

In the con­tent-heavy atmos­phere we live in, it’s easy to find “What Star Wars Can Teach Us About”-posts (yes, we’re even guilty of it here on Momen­tol­ogy!), so we won’t rein­vent the wheel.

Instead, here’s a look at 38 brands – one for each year since its release – that have incor­po­rat­ed Star Wars into their con­sumer out­reach, which fur­ther under­scores the breadth of the franchise’s mar­ket­ing pow­er.

This is by no means a com­pre­hen­sive list of mar­ket­ing cam­paigns fea­tur­ing Star Wars, but we’ve culled our favorites, along with a few of the most mem­o­rable and/or absurd in recent his­to­ry. (Ad Age recent­ly looked at all the places Star Wars lives, includ­ing your face, feet, wrist, dreams, cof­fee and break­fast. Par­tic­u­lar­ly enthu­si­as­tic fans may also want to check out the

Par­tic­u­lar­ly enthu­si­as­tic fans may also want to check out the cloth­ing col­lec­tion from Hot Top­ic and the Death Star Tea Infuser from Dis­ney.)

So, Star Wars and/or mar­ket­ing fans, brace your­self for char­ac­ters made out of food, cin­na­mon roll hair jokes, Force puns, tongue-in-cheek ref­er­ences to pater­ni­ty, black/white jux­ta­po­si­tion, and plen­ty of gen­uine­ly lov­ing trib­utes from pre­sum­ably nos­tal­gic brands and mar­keters. May the Fourth be with you.


Fast Food

Burger King

Per the AMA, the Home of the Whop­per co-pro­mot­ed the first Star Wars film near­ly 40 years ago via ads and mer­chan­dise, like these taste­ful glass­es.

Quiznos

More recent­ly, toast­ed sand­wich chain Quiznos mar­ried Star Wars and HBO hit “Entourage”, which had its own 2015 movie debut, in “Star­tourage: The Four­some Awak­ens”, on its curat­ed con­tent plat­form Toasty.TV. Star­tourage has 1.4 mil­lion views to date on YouTube (and a com­pa­ra­ble True Reach, which includes views on oth­er plat­forms as well.).

Not sur­pris­ing­ly, per­haps, a rep for agency Win­dowseat told AdWeek the effort – which includes skin, Star Wars ban­ter and Quiznos prod­ucts sprin­kled through­out – sought to attract young adult males.

White Castle

The King of Slid­ers paid homage to the franchise’s open­ing mon­tage with a slid­er GIF in a May 4, 2015 tweet:

Whataburger

Rival burg­er slinger Whataburg­er built its own walk­er out of condi­ments.

Subway

For its part, sand­wich chain Sub­way has cel­e­brat­ed back-to-back May Fourths, each time with a char­ac­ter made out of veg­eta­bles – not unlike its NFL draft food sculp­tures:

Cinnabon

Mean­while, the cin­na­mon roll pur­vey­or – which also sought to make the most of its cameo in “Bet­ter Call Saul” last year – has attempt­ed to cap­i­tal­ize on the sim­i­lar­i­ties between its core prod­uct and Princess Leia’s infa­mous hair­do:

(Han­ker­ing for more cin­na­mon-rolls-that-look-like-hair jokes? You’re in luck! Stay tuned.)

Tim Hortons

Like White Cas­tle, the Cana­di­an cof­fee and dough­nut chain also went the intro­duc­to­ry mon­tage route, along with a few donut holes in cos­tume for good mea­sure:

Chili’s

While the casu­al Amer­i­can restau­rant may nev­er top its infa­mous Baby Back Ribs jin­gle, which it recent­ly re-released with emo­jis, it took advan­tage of some kismet last year when Darth Vad­er him­self dined at one of its loca­tions.

KFC

In 2014, the Colonel’s quick-serve chick­en empire turned to Vine to illus­trate yet anoth­er way to har­ness the Force for good:

Starbucks

And while the cof­fee giant may be too busy count­ing ice cubes to acknowl­edge May 4 this year, the brand has pre­vi­ous­ly gone the Darth-Vad­er-and-light-saber route to push Frap­puc­ci­no Hap­py Hour, which, con­ve­nient­ly, returned May 1:


Automobiles

Volkswagen

Volkswagen’s The Force, which aired in Super Bowl XLV in 2011, ranks as one of the most pop­u­lar Super Bowl ads ever, with a True Reach of more than 89 mil­lion. It was also among the first Super Bowl ads to be released pri­or to the big game and its huge pre-game view­er­ship helped pave the way for the ear­ly release trend among sub­se­quent Super Bowl adver­tis­ers.

Nissan

The Japan­ese auto man­u­fac­tur­er real­ized “Juke” rhymes with “Luke,” et voila:


Toys

Hot Wheels

Hot Wheels debuted a life-size Darth Vad­er car at Com­ic-Con 2014, or what AdWeek described as a mod­i­fied Corvette with Darth Vad­er hel­met details, along with a video and the hash­tag #Darth­Car. The effort was meant to push Star Wars-inspired Hot Wheels cars, which soon fol­lowed.

Lego

While Star Wars and the Dan­ish toy com­pa­ny cer­tain­ly have a deep and mean­ing­ful rela­tion­ship, their most mem­o­rable joint exe­cu­tion was per­haps the life-size X-Wing fight­er jet in Times Square, which, at the time, was the largest Lego struc­ture built to date. A relat­ed video includes Star Wars char­ac­ters made out of Legos as well.


Consumer Goods

Kraft Macaroni & Cheese

To push its Star Wars-themed mac and cheese, Kraft exe­cut­ed a spot that gen­tly pokes fun of Star Wars fan fer­vor in a room full of nev­er-before-played-with col­lectibles, along with an inter­ac­tive web­site that allows fans to explore the col­lec­tion as well.

Per Ad Age, the brand also spon­sored Star Wars radio on Pan­do­ra on May 4, 2015.

CoverGirl

Make­up brand Cov­er­Girl marked the 2015 release of “The Force Awak­ens” with the launch its own Star Wars col­lec­tion, includ­ing Light Side and Dark Side mas­cara, nail pol­ish and lip­stick, which Buz­zFeed described as “classy AF,” as well as a Tum­blr and videos with near­ly 2 mil­lion views a pop.

Totino’s

The quirky piz­za and Piz­za Rolls brand has also played off of both the Dark Side and the open­ing scroll.

Oreo

The cook­ie brand that set the bar for real-time mar­ket­ing, paid homage to Leia’s hair and biki­ni.

Pillsbury

Leia’s cin­na­mon roll hair was not lost on CPG brand Pills­bury either, which simul­ta­ne­ous­ly pushed a recipe for “Super Sim­ple Princess Leia (Cin­na­mon) Buns” that year.

Charmin

Toi­let paper brand Charmin – of paper-stuck-to-bear fame – has pre­vi­ous­ly used May 4 as an oppor­tu­ni­ty to #Tweet­FromThe­Seat and make its own bun pun.

Betty Crocker

This par­tic­u­lar CPG brand part­nered with car­toon­ist and pan­cake mak­er Ran­dom Break­fasts to exe­cute Star Wars pan­cakes, pre­sum­ably made with one of Crocker’s recipes.

Nature Valley

The snack brand made its own gra­nola bar Ewok to wish fans a hap­py May 4 last year.


Retailers

Target

The retail­er, which cer­tain­ly sells plen­ty of Star Wars mer­chan­dise, part­nered with pro­duc­tion com­pa­ny Lucas­film to pay trib­ute to Star Wars fan­dom via a microsite that asked fans to sub­mit pho­tos and videos of their mem­o­ries, which Lucas­film then archived:


Technology

Google

For its part, Google, too, asked fans to choose sides after part­ner­ing with Lucas­film and Dis­ney on a microsite that trans­formed apps like Gmail, Google Maps, YouTube and Chrome to reflect users’ cho­sen paths.

Duracell

In the lead-up to both Decem­ber hol­i­days and the Decem­ber 17 release of “Star Wars: Episode VII—The Force Awak­ens”, bat­tery brand Dura­cell released an epic 60-sec­ond Star-Wars-themed clash between good and evil in Bat­tle for Christ­mas Morn­ing, which has near­ly 64 mil­lion views to date across plat­forms.

Per AdWeek, Dura­cell part­nered with Dis­ney, Lucas­film and the like to exe­cute the spot authen­ti­cal­ly and to appeal to kids and par­ents alike.

Philips

Play­ing off of an under­uti­lized Star Wars theme – that of Car­rie Fish­er insults – Dutch tech­nol­o­gy com­pa­ny Philips has implored fans to shave while also draw­ing a par­al­lel between light­bulbs and -sabers on May Fourths of yore.

Hootsuite

The social media man­age­ment plat­form cel­e­brat­ed May 4, 2015 by pon­tif­i­cat­ing about what Star Wars would be like with Twit­ter.

Windows

In 2014, the OS made a tech-and-Star-Wars-themed pater­ni­ty joke that tied back to its OneDrive ser­vice…

GE

The dig­i­tal indus­tri­al giant used Star Wars Day to make a physics joke.


Airlines

Also in 2014, both Unit­ed and Delta real­ized the light sticks their employ­ees use while planes taxi look sus­pi­cious­ly like lightsabers.


Entertainment

Disney

In 2013, Star Wars par­ent Dis­ney kicked off the brand’s pres­ence on Insta­gram with a self­ie from Darth Vad­er him­self, which has more than 73,000 likes to date. The Star Wars brand over­all has since amassed 4.4 mil­lion fol­low­ers on the net­work. Darth Vader selfie

Sesame Street

Even the arguable leader in children’s edu­ca­tion­al pro­gram­ming, which is no stranger to celebri­ty cameos, got in on the Star Wars action in a shot with Big Bird, C-3PO and R2-D2 in 2014…


Government

NASA

The Nation­al Aero­nau­tics and Space Admin­is­tra­tion used May 4, 2014 as an oppor­tu­ni­ty to teach fans about Saturn’s moon Mimas.


Pro Sports

The Jets

The NFL’s New York Jets, which haven’t done much right in recent mem­o­ry, used May 4, 2015 as an oppor­tu­ni­ty to send greet­ings to its own legion of devot­ed fans.


Shoes/Apparel

Vans

Chew­bac­ca, Jawa and Stormtroop­ers make cameos in a skate­board-themed spot from appar­el brand Vans to kick off its own Star Wars shoe and cloth­ing col­lec­tion in 2014.


Candy

Toblerone

The choco­late brand played off of a mem­o­rable “Star Wars” quote in its 2015 GIF.

Jol­ly Ranch­er The hard-can­dy brand asked fans to choose sides between Cher­ry and Blue Rasp­ber­ry.

Lisa Lacy

Written by Lisa Lacy

Lisa is a senior features writer for Inked. She also previously covered digital marketing for Incisive Media. Her background includes editorial positions at Dow Jones, the Financial Times, the Huffington Post, AOL, Amazon, Hearst, Martha Stewart Living and the Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund.

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