My daughter greeted me this morning with 'May the 4th be with you' which got me thinking not just about Star Wars but about the power of a brand, and who owns the brand.
Star Wars is BIG in our house.
B. I. G.
For context, my husband, my 21 year old son and my 13 year old daughter all absolutely love it. I simply go with the flow.
So when it's the 4th May, at our place it is Star Wars Day. Even I know the line from the iconic movie 'May the force with with you' and the play on words for the 4th of May simply can't be ignored!
We were in London recently and our trip happened to be at the same time as the Star Wars Celebration. This is a MASSIVE event with thousands of fans descending on 1 venue for 3 days, mostly in cos-play. I sat in the foyer for hours simply watching life go by and being constantly AMAZED by the home-made costumes. These costumes weren't your average book week 'throw on a sheet and call yourself Casper' level costumes, they were next-level, good enough to be featured in the next movie costumes.
So with my recent Star Wars Celebration visit and my daughter's greeting this morning, I have realised a valuable branding lesson. It's one that both Star Wars and Lego really get into, and that is:
The people OWN the brand.
When brands are starting out, whether it's a company, a product, a person, the focus is often on control. This makes the nature of this early stage brand positioning work exclusive. It is for the few that have been read in on colours, fonts, feel, tone and can only be trusted to the few who have the skills to grow the brand and keep adding value to it. In nature, the brand is owned by the brand team and licensed to the whole business, and merely consumed by the customers.
Then at some point, once a brand is big enough, like Star Wars and Lego, the brand is owned by the people. It is inclusive. Yes, fonts and colours are consistent, but the nature is no longer about control. It is about community. And the community is so involved, fonts, tone, colours and all the technical aspects are upheld. You can't tell the difference between the home made cos-play character or a licensed item.
Now of course, as a brand is growing, there is a natural tendency to hang onto control, to sue people for copyright infringement, to keep the brand exclusive. (As Nike would be doing right now for anyone trying to emulate the Nike brand).
Then a metamorphosis happens and the people own the brand, they protect it, they nurture it and everything it stands for. It becomes truly inclusive and 13 year olds greet their parents with 'May the 4th be with you' at this time every year.
I'm sure there there is a legal department at Star Wars ensuring other's aren't trying to profit off their intellectual property, but to see the reach of this brand into my kitchen this morning is truly inspiring.
How brave brands like Star Wars and Lego have had to be to embrace this phase!
May the 4th be with you as you ponder your brand and who really owns it.