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Digital Marketing

Star Wars’ StoryBrand Framework: What’s Working and What’s Not

Last Updated on July 12, 2022

What happened to Star Wars? Whether you’re a fan of Star Wars sequels or not, it’s clear that Disney made some, ah, interesting choices with their latest installments. For what should’ve been an easy slam dunk for Disney, became a conglomerate of mixed reviews from fans. Let’s take a clear look at Star Wars’ framework to find out how you can best avoid the sequels’ mistakes in your StoryBrand marketing campaign. 

What were the Positive aspects of the Sequel Trilogy?

While there are many negative aspects in the sequel trilogy, there are still some positive aspects that use the StoryBrand format well.

The original trilogy was an instant success – so Disney attempted to use the same magical formula within the sequel trilogy. 

What is great about the sequel trilogy:

  • Star Wars’ called fans to actionEpisode VII: The Force Awakens got people excited about Star Wars for the first time since the prequels (probably even more so than the prequels).
  • Audiences loved The Force Awakens and hype was at an all-time high for the next Star Wars films.
  • Episode VIII: The Last Jedi was a bold entry into Star Wars filmography by subverting expectations of previously established Star Wars characters.
  • Adam Driver’s performance of Kylo Ren was phenomenal; his inner conflict throughout the films between the light and dark side glued you to the screen. 

Rey v. Kylo Ren Lightsaber Battle in Forest

Then there was Rogue One, debatably the best Star Wars film of the 21st century. The film includes the best cinematography, coolest space battles, and brings a realism to heroes that hasn’t been experienced in any other Star Wars film.

And of course, the infamous Darth Vader corridor scene at the end of the movie; Darth Vader instilled a horror and terror in audiences that only modern cinema could achieve. Improved lighting techniques, CGI, and overall performances (the rebel extras did a phenomenal job in this scene) were the main elements that made this scene great. It made us really feel how powerful lightsabers and the force were in a movie that was mostly focused on blaster shots, heist plans, and war strategy.

But what do great Star Wars Stories have to do with Marketing?

Did the sequels hit all the marks in its StoryBrand framework? Let’s look at the original trilogy first then compare it to the sequel trilogy. A New Hope’s story is a simple example of StoryBrand and can help you find the type of framework you may want to implement with your customers. 

Check out the 7-step StoryBrand framework of the original trilogy: 

  1. We are given a Hero– Luke Skywalker is Introduced
  2. The Hero’s problem is introducedSkywalker and the Rebels need to rescue Princess Leia/Destroy the Death Star 
  3. Hero meets a guide– Luke meets Obi-Wan-Kenobi
  4. Guide gives Hero a Plan– Become a Jedi
  5. Guide calls Hero to action– Skywalker needs to leave Tatooine, get on the Millennium Falcon, and “Use the Force”
  6. Mentor helps Hero avoid defeat– Avoid Stormtroopers and Darth Vader
  7. Hero succeeds in Mission – Luke becomes a Jedi and destroys the Death Star

Luke Skywalker on Tatooine

These 7 steps show up in just about every chart-topping story that’s hit the silver screen. Our brains recognize these seven steps as an intriguing story, and immediately, we’re hooked.

What if you could use those seven steps to tell the story of YOUR brand? 

Where did Disney go wrong with their StoryBrand Narrative?

Donald Miller, the author of StoryBrand, states that you should “identify the customer’s problem, explain your plan to help them, and describe a successful ending to their story” in your marketing campaign.

StoryBrand Framework

Despite their efforts, Disney’s Star Wars failed to fulfill the 3 essential aspects of StoryBrand:

Identify the customer’s problem: Star Wars fans had been wanting new movies ever since the prequel trilogy in the early 2000’s. But what was the precedent for these new films? Why did there need to be a continuation from the original trilogy? Disney didn’t put much thought into how to create a natural continuation from the previous trilogy. 

Explain your plan to help them: Their main selling point to help fans with their desire for Star Wars was to offer “new” and quality Star Wars content. Ironically, they copied the old plot elements from the original trilogy in these “new” films; A protagonist is stuck on a desert planet, there is a conflict with a powerful antagonistic faction, and the plot is to destroy the large planet destroyer. Doesn’t it sound a little familiar?

Describe a successful ending to their story: Disney did not give the audience the “success story” that they promised but instead failed to reach fans’ expectations. 

But with a few tweaks and a little forethought, it’s totally possible to sidestep these issues and make sure your story works FOR YOU!

How the Sequels used the StoryBrand Framework

Based on reviews and audience feedback, the new Star Wars films definitely struck a chord with audiences. Let’s see if we can go back to the StoryBrand building blocks and objectively determine what went wrong with these films.

Looking again at the StoryBrand’s 7-step framework in a new light, the quality of the “hero,” the “problem”, the “guide,” and more has decreased in the sequel trilogy.

  • Everything is easy for the new Hero, Rey- She defeats the villain in first lightsaber duel. 
  • The problem has less stakes since we see Rey overcome her obstacles with ease throughout all these three films- She has no experience flying ships but yet knows more about the Millenium Falcon than Han Solo.
  • Finn, Rey’s sidekick, has little character development in these films. He mostly just yells after Rey in the last two films.
  • Luke Skywalker, now the guide, is a grumpy, sad, and mostly unhelpful figure in these movies. 
  • Luke is mostly unimportant in Rey’s journey to become a jedi. He doesn’t call her to action till extremely late in The Last Jedi and with little impact.
  • Rey defeats the Big Bad, “Snoke,” with ease in the second film.
  • Emperor Palpatine is brought back to life without a logical or clear explanation.
  • Rey succeeds in her mission with the defeat of Palpatine, but without the audience feeling much triumph in her victory. 

Old Luke Skywalker

And this is just the tip of the iceberg.

Star Wars captivated audiences for years with its amazing visuals and revolutionary storytelling. Now, the Star Wars brand divides audiences; average movie-goers typically enjoy these movies while hard-core fans generally dislike the sequel trilogy. 

Why is following the StoryBrand Framework important?

Need we go on? It is important not only to follow this framework, but also create a quality narrative that engages with your customers on a personal level. It’s not enough to just hit the 7 steps. You’ve got to make sure your story is compelling and engages with your customers. And that’s where we come in!

Want to be a blockbuster hit in your industry? Use the force to contact us today! 

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By: Jake Crumbaugh

Jake is a marketing intern at USDP. He enjoys reading philosophy, playing guitar, and writing short stories.