What Star Wars Can Teach You About Copywriting

by Mandy Boyle May 24th, 2011 

star-wars-bento

I'm a huge Star Wars nerd. When Star Wars: Revenge of the Sith came out, I dressed up as a Jedi for the premiere. Granted, I was working at a movie theater at the time and we all dressed up (and even had a Darth Maul face painter), but the event left me with a great memory. I can remember feeling the rush of excitement as I saw another installment of a movie epic unfold on screen. I may have had a flashlight in hand to direct patrons to their seats, but it might as well have been a light saber. It got my attention AND my engagement.

Star Wars can teach copywriters, bloggers, and SEOs a lot about getting attention. In fact, this movie is a textbook example of how a powerful story can mean success for a business. A few months back, I came across an amazing infographic that demonstrated how Star Wars changed the world. It was filled with details about the series' impact on film, sound, games, and special effects. It may have shown how we changed the way we tell stories through different media, but it didn't talk about its impact on copywriting.

If there's one thing that I've learned from Star Wars, it's that a good story can be worth more than ever imagined. Copywriters, bloggers, and SEOs alike can benefit from that lesson, and they can implement some of the same storytelling tactics that helped make Star Wars such as success:

  • Let the Story Unfold in a Series: Star Wars is one of the few series that succeeds at being captivating in multiple installments. Just think about how many movie sequels turn out to be flops. In the case of this sci-fi staple, Star Wars got better as the series progressed (from Episode I to Episode VI). Make the story of your brand something that's ongoing. Give it life and roll with it as you receive reader feedback. Respond and adapt. Maybe throw in a few twists and turns. Just make it last more than a sentence.
  • Be Fantastic: Chewbacca, R2D2, Yoda, Mace Windu….they're all fantastic characters that have depth, history, and real personalities. When writing content about your site or your products or services, make each part of your brand, or each product you offer, a unique character. Give them history and life. Make them interact with the overall story of your brand. Show how they make things possible. Have obstacles to overcome? Let us know that they're the villains. Either way, create a world that leaves enough room for imagination.
  • Give it History: The characters in Star Wars all have rich histories, which draws us in even more. In the case of your site, give your company or your products a rich history too. Histories draw us in and make us feel secure about interacting with your site. Histories share where a business or brand came from. There's potential for relating to that history, but there's an even bigger potential for understanding it.
  • Define Your Goal – And Reinforce It: As the characters play out their scenarios in the Star Wars series, there's usually a clearly defined goal in mind. Anakin must win the pod race. The Rebel Alliance must restore the ideals of the Old Republic. Balance must be brought to the Force. Obstacles are clearly defined and then expanded upon with possible solutions as the story plays out. In the case of your copy, be clear about the obstacles your readers face and reinforce those challenges as you show how your products or services might solve them.
  • Use Symbols: The Force is the dominant symbol throughout Star Wars, but in the case of your content, you can easily use symbols to explain or incorporate a complex idea without having to get wordy. We relate to symbols incredibly well as people and in many cases, symbols give higher meaning to our copy. There is power in a single word.

The Chosen One Take Away
Star Wars works as a brand and as a story because it appeals to us as people. Star Wars has pain, love, struggles, triumphs, friendship, birth, death, and of course, the classic conflict between good and evil. Sure, in a piece of SEO content, it may play out like "[product A] defeats [challenge for consumer]", but the message gets across the same. We've all experienced the stories that Star Wars lays out for us. Use emotion, depth, and relatable characters to tell the story of your site and you may find yourself playing out an epic story of your own on your site, complete with a level of engagement you never would have imagined – and you didn't have to go to a galaxy far, far away to do it.

Mandy Boyle

Mandy Boyle gets her daily fix of copywriting as the SEO Team Leader at Solid Cactus. She is also a published freelance writer , co-founder of NEPA BlogCon and was probably a baker in another life. Cupcakes, anyone?

Mandy Boyle

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4 Responses to “What Star Wars Can Teach You About Copywriting”

  1. Great stuff. Let me add another suggestion: take care with your "spin-offs."

    Star Wars: The Clone Wars is an awesome brand extension. Rather than just saying "Hey, let's do a cartoon," they built off of what existed already (history, storyline, etc.). BUT it is extremely well-done.

    There's a reason that John Lasseter is in charge at Disney Pixar – he told Disney how important story is, and he thinks Disney made way too many "Cinderalla 3 – Search for the lost whatever." Lucasfilm learned that ages ago and didn't screw up the brand extensions.

    Awesome stuff!

    • Ruud Hein says:

      Nice angle there with John Lasseter. Thanks Dave.

      Oh — and good post; 4 steps to avoiding the echo chamber. Enjoy your writing style :)

  2. Mandy says:

    Thanks, Dave!

    I wholeheartedly agree on Clone Wars being a great extension. Very well done. I think the Jedi Apprentice series also did a lot to attract younger audiences to the story (myself included) around the time that Phantom Menace was released. Lucasfilm gets how to attract both young and adult audiences, which is something that many other franchises struggle with.

    I think animated series/stories have a tendency to beat themselves to death. What are we at now? The Land Before Time XLII? The temptation to keep pushing the same story, with little development, eventually makes it fade into distant memory. The cool thing about Star Wars is that it's the kind of story that grows with you and draws you in to deeper levels, so it's never the same story, but always the same core "universe".

  3. Cool comparison, Mandy!

    I'm thinking about how any idea, no matter how old or used…can always be presented in a new light. Everybody is different, and it is this difference which makes our thoughts unique. I liked how you explained copywriting through star wars. It is a very fresh and interesting take on things. The headline grabbed me, the star wars angle made me read it through and reading it COMPELLED me to comment. I feel like your words jedi mind tricked me into replying…

    Nice article. As thanks, I'd like to make sure you know about the robot chicken star wars episodes, because that was the last fresh take on star wars I saw before your article. Hope they make you smile.