I have a love/hate relationship with George Lucas. On the love side, he has created one of the most spectacular science fiction universes that has ever existed. As a nine year old child, I saw the 1983 hit Return of the Jedi 11 times in the theatre and I have paid for the same movie several different times since, in altered formats. Today, I am reading the entire Star Wars book series and have come to the realization that it will likely never be something I can 100% complete, as the Star Wars universe is ever growing. New amazing stories continue to be produced and continue to fuel my imagination. On the hate side, George Lucas blatantly monetizes the series in ways that frustrate me. The entire original movie series has been re-released multiple times (coming up on re-re-re-re-re-released?) with marginally different additions. As much as I would prefer that the original just stay the same, I will continue forking over money to see these additions. I am a Star Wars junkie and I cannot help but to throw my money at George Lucas when I know that the benefit of some of these changes is very marginal and sometimes unwelcome. Whether I love or hate George Lucas, it cannot be denied that he is a genius marketer and we all have something to learn from him if we are selling a product.
By changing the movies so often, I sometimes feel like Lucas has somehow perverted my childhood memories and tainted a sort of sacred nostalgic magic that I remember as Star Wars. I cannot lie, however, and I will continue to eat up all of these changes and pay whatever money I need to in order to see the next iteration of the entire series. Lucas has capitalized on my childhood memories, and the memories of millions born in the late 60’s and 70’s. While maintaining this sort of connection to my generation’s pocket book, Lucas also is tapping into newer generations by releasing these movies over and over. The original movies (A New Hope, The Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi), were re-released in the 90s in preparation for the new episodes. With some minor technology additions, it not only captured my attention, but also younger kids and it won the hearts of multiple generations. The original Star Wars: A New Hope was theatrically re-released in 1978, 1979, 1981, 1982 and then with enhanced special effects in 1997. A new 3D version is set to release in the near future.
Beyond the movies, there is an entire universe that is so enormous and expands to so many marketing channels that it truly is almost impossible to keep up with. I mentioned that I am reading the books, but there is also a large comic book library in addition to toys, cartoons, LEGO series, video games, board games, clothing, dolls, snow boards and just about any imaginable anything that you can find with a Star Wars logo on it. He has marketed this brand in a way that not only spans generations of customers, but also several demographics by interest. If you are into snowboarding, you can pick yourself up a Star Wars original snowboard. The gaming universe is enormous with Star Wars and includes a multi-player online video game called The Old Republic which a person could literally spend hundreds or thousands of hours playing and still not beat. Lucas has explored and marketed to almost every demographic and I would not be surprised if they are still thinking of new ways to market to new groups of people or market to an aging demographic of fans.
The simple fact is that George Lucas has monetized the Star Wars series like no other has been able to for other product dynasties. He has found ways to span generations and ways to infiltrate different market segments that places his products in many unexpected ways. He uses nostalgia and new technologies to keep old viewers and gain new ones at the same time. No matter what I personally feel about how George Lucas has changed the movies or what he has done to the Star Wars universe over time, he is an amazing marketer and has sold his brand in an amazing way.