Marketing: The Darth Vader Approach

marketingBy Laura Petrolino

What can an epic villain teach us about marketing? How dare you doubt the powers of the Dark Side!? (Cue Star Wars theme?á)

Consider that the first Star Wars movie was made in 1977. Now, say ?ªDarth Vader’. There’s immediately a very clear image, right?

From his humble beginnings back in the 70’s to today, world wide, across all ages, cultures, and socio-economic levels, the Darth Vader brand remains clear, consistent and strong.

In fact, the marketing and brand consistency is, well, out of this world!

Marketing: The Power of Darth Vader’s Brand

Sight: The dark, caped suit, his ‘faceless’ black helmet, his imposing, rather intimidating figure – let’s face it, Darth could own a room.

Sound: The characteristic raspy, mechanical ?ªVader’ breathing and voice, and the ominous music that when he enters a scene.

Immediate brand ‘word association’: Star Wars, villain, dark side, ‘father’, Luke Skywalker, etc.

Multi-media impact: And, perhaps the most genius part of this branding? No matter what the media channel: Radio, T.V., print, even social – it really doesn’t matter – the power of the ‘brand’ that is Darth Vader remains visceral. Heck, even if you simply see a picture of Darth, don’t you immediately ‘hear’ his mechanical breathing and frightening voice? I know I do.

Now although it will be pretty difficult to reach the type of brand recognition of Sir Vader (surely he’s been knighted by now…?), it is still a goal to aspire to, and one that should at the very least inspire some thought about your own marketing.

How consistent is your brand? What visual images are associated with it? What sounds? What phrases (??Luke, I am your father”)? What smells (think Starbucks, or Krispie Kreme, or Subway here. Smell can be an extremely powerful part of branding and is often overlooked)? What words, places, things do people automatically associate with your brand?

Focus: Don’t try to be everything to everyone. Decide what your brand is, and stick to it. Be the best darn ‘it’ possible. Look at Darth. He rocks the villain gig, so trying to branch out would have only diluted his brand and evil power. He is an award winning villain – heck, the venerable American Film Institute named him the 3rd greatest movie villain of all time.

So what if, after winning all of these awards, ole’ Darthy said to himself, “you know what, I should expand out of this niche a bit”?áwell it would have been a bigger bomb than Michael Jordan playing baseball. Yet, well intentioned business owners do it all the time. Don’t be one of them.

Resonance: It isn’t good enough to just have a great brand, an amazing product or service, or even a catchy messaging and communications strategy. If you can’t ‘touch’ your target audience in some way, shape, or form personally, you’re doomed. Darth Vader is not one-dimensional. He has a relatable tragic side. He is a father, he has struggled with his choices, he has feelings, and ultimately all of this resonates with the empathetic side of every human.

In some ways, we can all relate to Darth Vader ‘the guy’.

And that makes his evil more evil, his brand powerful and timeless, and his story one that will go down in history as one of the greats. Don’t you want the same for your brand?

A version of this post originally ran on Flying Pig Consulting.