Friday, June 1, 2007

Learning from Star Wars

This week is the thirtieth anniversary of the first Star Wars movie. Anyone who saw it the first time round will remember the opening crawl that started this epic story. “A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away…” Thirty years later it still thrills with the promise of a world of adventure and the unknown. Why did Star Wars become such a cultural icon of the twentieth century, and why is its power still felt into the twenty-first? The answer is as simple as it is obvious; it is the ability to tell a great story well.

Now, it’s is well known that George Lucas drew on Joseph Campbell’s ideas about archetypes and how the same tensions and roles inspire myths across time and culture. What made George Lucas special, however, was not that he knew how to analyze and structure a story. What made him special was that he turned out to be a great storyteller – not a great theorist. I am often astonished in advertising how often the stories are muddied, complicated and even plain boring. They sound good when they are explained and fall apart when they are told. If you want a master class in storytelling I suggest you watch the Star Wars trilogy through a couple of times. Take notes, see how the characters build, watch how the visuals move the plot and listen to the studied rhythms of the dialogue. Every story has to create its own world to some extent, but Star Wars is such an extreme example of world-building that you can see the principles in action.


Tony said...

You are so right. Some companies just don't get it.

I was watching the All Blacks beat the French and thinking what a great story the All Blacks have. Full of passion and suspense - normally with a great ending (being a kiwi).

I know that Adidas replaced Canterbury of NZ some time ago, but Adidas just don't get the All Black story.

You can tell just by going to their website (like I just did) & see they can't even be bothered adding New Zealand to their site. They don't deserve to sponsor our national team (and be part of the story) if they don't get the story about national pride.

Detrick said...

Thanks for this post. It's interesting how George Lucas has built this franchise and how it has last so long. There are many people who line up for days for Star Wars. Star Wars is such a cultural icon, people have even formed a religion called Jedi Knights. How is it George Lucas able to create such a Lovemark and allow it to transcend generations? I don't think there have ever been a movie franchise to have so many sequels, transcends generations, and still manage to maintain such interest.

Kempton said...


Thanks for this wonderful post. Just love it as I very much enjoyed the link to Joseph Campbell’s ideas about archetypes and his discussions of the movies. I love both the original Star War and The Matrix trilogy.

There are days that I felt like I should send in my "tuition fee" as I've been learning so much from you and "borrowing" your quotes and ideas over the years. May be I should become legit and take some "exams" to apply for a certificate from the Kevin Roberts School of Ideas and Creative Thinking (KRSICT).

Dear Kevin, it has been a great pleasure learning from you and I will keep learning. Mind you, how much knowledge did I actually pick up and keep in my head remains a Mystery. (smile)

Have a great day,

INTJ (from years ago, I think)

Susan Plunkett said...

Kevin, I suspect for some there is a gap between their story and the ability to share the same. As you point out, Lucas was a fine story teller and I suspect he had faith in the quality of his tale and its transference to screen. I have sometimes found with my own writing that when I share it simply and verbally it has a stronger resonance than when I put it to paper and for me that is getting over the need to 'be' anything different on paper than I actually am; to cut out the self conscious awareness of trying to 'prove' myself and simply having faith that my evolving self is enough. :-) I like your comment about world-building. I have worked in autoethnography and in this modality the reader/viewer is credited for enlarging on the story and making new interpretations. How people come to a story, what they bring, how open they are et al all make a difference. In your blog you're talking perhaps of a different level of analysis - and levels of analysis is an interesting topic into itself.



J said...

Hello Mr KR,

What do you think? I was wondering how to link the idea behind the heores journey with lovemarks and why they work.

The hero with a thousand names, ,the shopper with a thousand faces. Lovemarks, the customers story so far and where that meets and falls in love with the brand.

hope that kind of makes sense?
brands are lovemarks because they appeal to a consumers sense of who they are, their life story, their own take on love and loyalty. Brands are the co-star to the consumer-the hero.

Susan956 said...

Jo..Hi..I know your question wasn't directed at me but if I may..? Your post actually offers two directions for the very issue you pose..

Let's take the hero with a thousand faces..

Start with defining what a hero is, but look at the array of definitions offered by a broad number of people - vis those who pose Lovemarks. What descriptors are they attaching to the concept "Heroes" (the working definition you commence with and refine as you go along). Further, is it a movable concept or more fixed? If fixed can you determine 'roots' for the concept? If movable, is that movement actually important and perceived by the consumer [as being valuable]?

I also think it worth considering Lovemarks as being beyond the brand (i.e. the more traditional notions of 'brand') and in the process of musing seek points of commonality and connectivity (across the Lovemark nominations) - they're there and I've seen them by reading 15.

Heroes is a power word by the way so I'd caution about applying it without strong cause to do so simply because consumers are more knowledgeable and cynical than ever before. Apart from this consumers have populist media Heroes pulsing away in their peripheral vision so whatever you arrive at may (note *may*) need to stand up against that.

Whatever your interest in the proposed study I wish you the best with it...certainly it's a topic ripe with creative options!