School communicators and nerds, strap yourselves in and prepare to make the jump to lightspeed because we're about to explore some valuable lessons from one of the most iconic movie franchises in history: Star Wars.
The epic space opera that captured the hearts of millions has SO much to teach us about effective school marketing and communication. From iconic branding to creating a die-hard fan base, this timeless space saga taps into some of the most effective storytelling and marketing practices in the galaxy.
Grab your lightsaber and let's punch it — these are nine essential lessons that will help you master the Force with your own school marketing and communication strategies.
1. Masterful storytelling
While the 11 (and counting...) films explore the ideas of the struggle between good vs evil, coming of age, courage, and hope, at its core, Star Wars is really a story about family. Its powerful narrative has captured the hearts and minds of multiple generations, teaching so many about dreams, hopes, and destinies.
School pros can apply the power of storytelling by crafting compelling narratives that showcase the unique aspects of their institution, such as its culture, values, and success stories of students, alumni, teachers, and parents.
2. Iconic branding
No translation needed here…Star Wars’ branding is instantly recognizable thanks to its iconic visual elements, typography, colors, and even sounds.
Your school can develop a strong brand identity, too. Unique and memorable logos, and other visual elements, messaging, and experiences all work together to reflect your school’s values and set you apart from competitors.
Consistency is key — from every online experience to campus tour, a consistent user experience in branding across all channels and touchpoints is crucial for building brand recognition and credibility, much like the familiar sights and sounds throughout all the films.
3. Evoking emotion
More than 40 years after their initial release, the films can still pull on our heartstrings and have us rooting for the heroes. From the iconic score to countless thrilling moments, the Star Wars saga elicits a range of emotions from its audience, which only helps to drive the stories and its characters.
Marketing your school is all about effective communication and tapping into the emotions of your target audience through powerful messaging, imagery, and storytelling that resonates with your family’s aspirations, concerns, and values. Search your feelings, and don’t be afraid to harness the power of the dark side...
4. Building a community
Star Wars has cultivated a passionate, die-hard fan base that lives and breathes the franchise's themes and values.
By creating platforms for students, parents, and alumni to engage with each other, share experiences, and celebrate achievements, your school can foster a sense of community, too. An active presence on social media, engaging newsletters, and regular campus updates all help build a strong community around your school's brand.
McCallie School had some fun with its faculty to recreate its own Star Wars film — take a look! As McCallie puts it: “On a ridge far, far away, the McCallie men embark on their journey to manhood guided by a cast of fun-loving mentors.” The Force is strong with this one!
5. Leveraging multiple channels
To expand the fan experience, the Star Wars franchise has successfully utilized multiple channels for storytelling and marketing, including movies, TV shows, books, comics, podcasts, video games, and popular in-person experiences.
Reach out with the Force, and expand your school's influence by embracing a multi-channel approach with your digital marketing strategies. Leverage various platforms like social media, email marketing, websites, print materials, and events to share your message with different audience segments.
New Jersey’s Far Hills Country Day School is engaging audiences where they are with a multi-channel approach to its digital marketing plan. Based on a family’s search intent, a healthy mix of high-quality PPC and social ads greet families that are looking for private school options.
6. Adapting and innovating
At some point, we all have to grow up, but over the years, Star Wars has evolved and adapted to changes in audience preferences and market trends, engaging its fan base year after year.
Whether you’re a purist and know that Han shot first (he did), you grew up with the prequels, or you’re glued to the latest adventures with Grogu, the Star Wars franchise keeps expanding, evolving, and resonating with multiple generations of fans.
Likewise, schools should be open to change and innovation in their marketing and communication strategies, adjusting their tactics based on data, feedback, and new technologies.
Just like the ability to stay up to date on the latest advancements in digital marketing, SEO, AI, and school website design, regularly reviewing and refining your marketing mix can help you stay relevant and better serve the needs of your target audience and increase enrollment.
Also, be proud of your school’s history and the changes that have taken place throughout the years.
Shanghai American School has an impressive timeline of its 100+ years of influence. Interactive panels about the history of faculty, student life, culture, and how historic events have all influenced the experience it provides today. Nicely done!
7. Partnerships and collaborations
Star Wars cereal, bedsheets, soft drinks, coffins, cars — everything and anything. Yes, Star Wars has formed strategic partnerships and collaborations with various brands, businesses, and influencers, which have only helped expand its reach and strengthen its hold on pop culture (and my wallet) over the years.
Don’t underestimate the power of your school or district's influence. The impact your school has on local businesses, non-profit organizations, and other community members can create mutually beneficial initiatives AND create some great school PR.
Maryland’s Calvert County Public Schools highlights some of the upcoming community events on its Community Partnerships and Engagement page, as well as ways to volunteer within the district, more information about health and wellness, and opportunities for students within the community. Like a digital community board, it’s a great hub to collect community events and partner with local families and businesses during the school year.
8. Memorable characters
In a galaxy full of heroes, villains, rebels, and smugglers, one of the reasons Star Wars has such a devoted following is its diverse and memorable characters. Aside from Jar Jar, each character has a unique backstory, personality, and important role in the overall narrative. If they can make an action figure from it, they will (and where can I get it?)
Similarly, schools are a microcosm of our world, and every school has its own cast of characters, helping to form the experience that only your school can provide. Highlight your own characters’ stories by sharing their accomplishments.
Showcasing the unique personalities and achievements of your school community can create a sense of pride and connection for prospective and current students, as well as alumni.
Corbett Prep’s beautiful new site highlights campus news, student accomplishments, and events while integrating recent Instagram posts with Finalsite Feeds, all directly on its homepage. An in-depth news page collects the latest stories, and a handy search bar makes browsing by keywords a breeze — lovely!
9. Anticipation and hype
Star Wars has mastered the art of building anticipation and hype around new releases and events. Back in the day, movie theater lines stretched across blocks and around the corner, keeping fans on pins and needles to learn the fate of Luke Skywalker and his friends.
School marketing offices can apply this lesson by strategically promoting upcoming events, programs, and initiatives. Whether it’s a countdown to an open house, the first day of school, or the last few hours of a giving campaign, using teasers, exclusive previews, and promos can build excitement and interest in everything you offer.
Rowland Hall launched a microsite to help build excitement for its 150th anniversary. A theme site design like theirs is a perfect way to celebrate an amazing milestone, complete with yearbook archives, class note submissions, and important moments throughout the school’s history, all of which honor the school’s long history.
Embrace these principles and learn from the Star Wars phenomenon. Trust your instincts, strengthen your brand, foster community engagement, and ultimately, achieve your goals for growth and success. And remember, “Do or do not, there is no try.”
May the Force be with you, always.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Connor has spent the last decade within the field of marketing and communications, working with independent schools and colleges throughout New England. As Finalsite’s Senior Content Marketing Manager, Connor plans and executes marketing strategies and digital content across the web. A former photojournalist, he has a passion for digital media, storytelling, coffee, and creating content that connects.