The Taylor Institute hired a news Student Assistant this semester to assist in our video production efforts. Michael McKelvey is currently working on his MBA here at UAkron. In addition to skills in video production, it turns out he is a pretty good writer as well. Here is his first blog post of many to come. And from this first effort, he may be a tad passionate about Star Wars.
Space is a cold dark vacuum, and until recently, the same could be said about the marketing campaign around the new Star Wars film, Solo: A Star Wars Story. The thing about vacuums is, they are always looking fill that space, and in the case of Solo, the internet has been happy to oblige. After the release of The Last Jedi in December, message boards and forums began to fill up with speculation on why there had not been any marketing material released when the film was only five months away. With the casting of Alden Ehrenreich to portray a younger Han Solo, and the mysterious decision to remove the film’s duo of directors, Chris Miller and Phil Lord, halfway through production, fans of the series have worried that the film is simply bad. While fears regarding quality have passed through the dedicated fan base, much of the casual movie-going audience has experienced something much worse from a marketing perspective: ignorance. While many casual movie-goers have heard of the Solo movie at some point, very few have expressed knowledge of the film’s release date.
Disney released the first teaser trailer for Solo on February 5, just over three months from the film’ s scheduled release date of May 25. The first full-length trailer dropped on April 9, seven weeks before release. For comparison, Rogue One, the other “Star Wars Story” film, released its teaser and full-length trailers eight months and four months, respectively, before its release. What exactly has Disney been thinking waiting so long to start the marketing push for Solo? To start, this is the first time that two Star Wars films have been released in a single year, and the rumor is that the studio wanted to wait for some of the hype around The Last Jedi to wear off before promoting Solo. It does make sense that Disney would want to create breathing room between films, especially one with as much impact and discussion as The Last Jedi and give audiences a chance to reset the need to feed their Star Wars addiction.
Secondly, and to me, more importantly, was the desire to get it right. Late reshoots were something that plagued both Rogue One and Solo, it did not, however, keep Rogue One from releasing the standard salvo of promotional material like it has for Solo. Rogue One released trailers before they had completed their reshooting process, as a result, many of the shots and lines from the trailers never made it to the final film, something that audiences were eager to point out. Rogue One was able to create a lengthy, impactful marketing campaign that wasn’t always true to the final product. With Solo, they appear to be fully dedicated to nailing down the final product before putting out too much information on it. This makes sense when your film is about one of the most iconic characters in cinema, who for the first time, is being played by a new actor. While random internet conjecture on quality and low visibility are less than ideal, it is preferable to putting out material that could actively alienate fans by showing an unfinished representation of one of their favorite products.
Star Wars is such an influential brand that the potential side effects of brand degradation could be far costlier than having a rushed marketing schedule on a single movie. If they had continued to base marketing campaigns around material that may not be representative of the final product (for better or worse) as Rogue One did, that type of marketing tactic has the capability to cause long-term brand harm even if it can give a single film an opening weekend boost. While a shorter and less impactful marketing campaign may affect the opening numbers of Solo, the quality of the film and the word of mouth Star Wars films can bring will be where the film truly succeeds or fails in the long-term.
Even though Disney has missed opportunities in their promotion for Solo, the argument can be made (at least for now) that best marketing any of these films can have, are the big yellow letters plastered over the opening title screen reading: Star Wars.
By: Michael McKelvey @mckelvey92