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Lessons Learned from “Star Wars”

Even if you never turn on a computer or television screen, just walking through any major retail store will inform you of the upcoming “Star Wars: The Force Awakens” movie. “Star Wars” ice cream, makeup, bathrobes and even oranges line the aisles of shops as part of one of the most successful marketing campaigns ever.

The marketing works on me, just as it works on the millions of other fans. Why did my family buy tickets for the opening weekend? Why do I feel tempted to buy “Star Wars” oranges?

The answer is that there are a number or reasons that “Star Wars” has built such a following. Ask any fan, and they’ll be able to list their own personal reasons for their deep-rooted love of the franchise.

Reflecting on some of the reasons that make “Star Wars” such a titan among movies made me realize these tips work for more than just film-making. They also work for any branding efforts, such as travel planners might utilize when building membership and enthusiasm for their travel club.

See what your travel club can gain from the power of the Force with these five lessons learned from “Star Wars” marketing.

1. Brand loyalty

How do you make people care about an almost 40-year-old film? Die hard loyalty. Branding for “Star Wars” means that core consumers come back again and again because they root for the success of the franchise. Many people didn’t like the last three movies, but they’re still lining up for the new ones.

One of the main ways group travel planners create a successful base of members is through loyalty. Because Nancy has a rapport with you, she is more likely to book her trip with your group above another travel agent. Her loyalty keeps her coming back. Invest in building loyalty through your group by taking the time to get to know present and potential group members to strengthen your travel brand.

2. Personal investment

“Star Wars” stands out from other movies because although it appeals to all age groups and demographics, it feels like it belongs to you. Many of us watched “Star Wars” as a child when our sense of wonder had real power. So when fans see Harrison Ford back in character again, it takes them back to their childhood. The story may stretch for galaxies, but it’s their personal connection with those characters that made the recent film’s trailer feel at once familiar and new.

As travel planners, you can also stay relevant to your members through by finding out what matters to them. Keep them involved in the process of choosing new tours, so when you produce next year’s lineup of tours, it speaks to them personally. It can be even be a familiar destination they love like Rome, but from a new angle, such as a culinary tour. That way, they can reminisce about their last trip there, while looking forward to the tour’s new elements.

3. Consumer interaction

“Star Wars” has managed to stay culturally relevant through its continued engagement with its consumer base at conventions and through user-generated content. Merchandise also adds to the connection fans feel to the series, since every time they see their Jabba the Hut mug, it reminds them of their affinity for the movie.

Successful group leaders also reach out to their members outside of travel to keep them engaged. They use social media, newsletters, events and other efforts to stay in people’s minds. Many travel planners will also hand out free souvenirs or other gifts to travelers, so the members will have something they can hold in their hands that reminds them of their experience.

4. Anticipation

I and many other fans watched teaser trailers for the new movie that revealed absolutely nothing about the plot, just for some glimpse of what was to come. These sneak peeks and trailers gradually rolled out before the movie engaged all fans on a drip campaign without their knowledge.

This type of slow buildup can work for travel as well. Sending out articles about the upcoming destination, photos of hotels and promotional videos over time can build excitement for a trip that may increase their enjoyment of the actual trip itself once it finally comes.

5. Less is more.

You would think the more “Star Wars” movies, the better. However, because the trilogies have spaced out so far, it makes them seem rare, and therefore more desirable. It’s been a decade since “Revenge of the Sith,” so hunger for the new installment has only grown.

Travel planners can sometimes make the mistake of offering too many trips to their members. You might think more trips lead to more choices, which lead to more bookings. However, many planners find too many options only weakens the strength of their brand. Test different numbers of trips to find out the sweet spot for your group.

Eliza Myers

Eliza Myers has worked for The Group Travel Leader since 2007. She is the online editor and associate editor for Select Traveler.

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