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What Radio Can Learn from Star Wars VII


Last week the Internet melted.

And if you’re a Star Wars fan, you know the precise moment: When the latest teaser trailer for the newest chapter in the long-running Star Wars saga was unleashed online.

You’ve probably seen it by now. It has been watched more than 40 million times, so I’m assuming at least one of those viewings was yours.

So I thought, what can radio broadcasters learn from the pandemonium surrounding this second in a series of promotional trailers for a movie which promises to stop both space and time when it finally opens in a cineplex near you in December?

There are a few takeaways, I think:

1. Reinvention isn’t nearly as compelling as taking the familiar and making it new again

Sure, we’ve had Star Wars movies since the original trilogy, but none of them featured legendary familiar faces from the original cast. Theoretically, Disney could have rebooted the whole franchise (after Episode III, many would have welcomed it), but they didn’t. Instead they extended the franchise with new chapters under the steady hand of J.J. Abrams.

The lesson: Much of radio revolves around consistency and fulfilling expectations. But consistency can become boring unless it’s routinely made new again. That doesn’t necessarily mean you need new talent, but it does mean that talent needs to be doing new things.

2. When you have something hot to share, tease it

The audience loves and hates nothing more than being deprived of information about something they care feverishly about. When interest is high and information is dripped out, watch as listeners lap it up like thirsty dogs.

The lesson: Fan the flames of desire. Tease.

3. Make sure you have some hot content

Disney paid $4 billion for LucasFilm in 2012. And they paid the same price for Marvel in 2009. These were massive investments in content that only made sense in direct proportion to Disney’s desire to nurture, grow, and expand these franchises into the future. And they’re doing exactly that.

The lesson: A movie franchise is the rough equivalent of top-drawer radio talent. Grow some. Buy some. Invest in some. Expand your franchise into the future.

4. Keep some stuff mysterious

Who is that narrator? If it sounds like Mark Hamill, the original Luke Skywalker, that’s because it is.

With that mystery solved, marvel as every frame is dissected online as if it’s the map to a buried treasure. Then again, isn’t that precisely what the heavily anticipated next chapter of Star Wars is?

Theories will abound. Speculation will run rampant. And desire will fuel more desire.

The lesson: The best tease is the one that leads to a payoff worth the teasing. Focus on the payoff first, then the tease.

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