Star Wars. . . what else were you expecting? J.J. Abrams recently has been on record as saying that there will be no more Star Wars trailers before the film comes out. This is brilliantly ingenious for more than a few reasons, but more than that it speaks to the phenomenal way the advertising campaign has come out. Speaking purely from an analytic perspective, even if I wasn't a fan of Star Wars this great marketing campaign would still work on multiple levels. Strictly speaking, we'll talking about the trailers, but there are many reasons why The Force Awakens marketing has worked so well. When it comes down to it, I believe there are five main elements which has given Star: Episode VII - The Force Awakens trailers the explosively positive reception from fans and critics alike.
Obviously one of the main reason the trailers work so well is because of it. They pay homage to what worked in Star Wars. We see what brings back warm, fuzzy memories without them going so far as to hit us over the head with these elements in a way that could make it feel as if this new trilogy is merely a tribute band. Yes, some of the elements that made Star Wars so special, including production design and characters are in there, but they are there for a purpose. They're not a cheap advertising method to get people in seats. They actually work in a way that feeds the story. A lesser marketing campaign would either throw out what made the property so special to begin or follow it exactly to a tee in a way that becomes an unintentional parody of itself. Thank goodness that wasn't the case here.
Star Wars: Episode VII -The Force Awakens advertising has this in spades. Plot and story elements are hinted at, but are not given away. In a lesser marketing campaign this could be the downfall. With The Force Awakens they give enough to let us know there is more there, but not enough to spoil the story. One of the main if not the main character of all of Star Wars, Luke Skywalker, is left out of the trailers. Speculation galore! A simple, run-of-the-mill trailer shows every character and plot element just to get the simplistic response of 'hey, it's him and he'll be doing exactly this in the movie!'. Disney and Lucasfilm are smarter than that. They know you'll already be looking for him, so not showing him gives a greater response. Now, not all films can use this strategy obviously as not enough know about the mythology of smaller films. Big Blockbusters though, take note. We don't need to see everything! It makes you seem desperate. The only reason I see all your trailers is because I'll have to anyway when I go see movies at my local cinema for another film and your trailer is playing beforehand.
Something that the trailers have shown is that J.J. Abrams knows how to set tone. Partially this comes from the masterful music of John Williams, and the top of the line cinematography and production design from all involved. We are shown what Star Wars looks like and sounds like through the use of propulsive action and visuals coupled with intentional use of engaging music. Though, more than that, The Force Awakens has given an idea of the general feel of the story without telling us everything. The show don't tell approach means that an emphasis on the tactile feel and exciting elements of a property naturally have to be highlighted. From the beginning of movie trailers this has been a must. If you can't get your audience engaged in the experience of the trailer why should they be excited for the film?
Narration is a tricky thing. It easily can be so caught up in exposition that it becomes cheesy and forced. Disney and Lucasfilm took a different approach, in that the narration gives an idea of the story without flat out saying what it is. Instead it spends most of its time as a means of furthering our engagement through the atmosphere of the film. From the beginning of the first teaser, through narration, we are asked, "There has been awakening. . . Have you felt it?". At the onset we are asked to quote on quote feel the the aura of the experience that is Star Wars. The final line of the final trailer then furthers this with the words., "The Force, it’s calling to you. Just let it in.". Our emotional response only grows and it does it in such a way that doesn't feel forced, but naturally flows with the style and narrative of the film. Now this begs the question, can other trailers of blockbusters mimic this style? Of course you can't do this with everything as this could be hammy and cheesy in the wrong hands, but there is something to be said about having confidence in your property that you can ask your audience to have faith in the general style and feel of your film. You don't have to tell them everything, and just let them know in an earnest way that all their questions will be answered in due time. For now, they can just enjoy the experience.
Last off is exposure, and I'm using this word in two senses (and one of those is not Fifty Shades of Awakened). As I have been saying Star Wars: Episode VII has shown us just enough without overselling. They are not spoiling major plot points in the trailers. By having just three trailers - two of which are teaser trailers - we are given just enough for our taste buds to water without ruining the main course. Secondly, Disney and Lucasfilm knew when and where to release their trailers for full impact. By strategically letting people know when the trailers would air, and placing them during crucial moments - Star Wars Celebration and half time on Monday Night Football where one could first buy tickets - they became events. Of course a lot of this you can placed on Star Wars just being so popular. There is something to be said though of building anticipation for something that already escalates that to begin with. Here, it was a winning recipe. We can only hope that the film will be the same. If the the trailers are any indication. . . well, let's not get too ahead of ourselves. We can just sit back and enjoy the wave of excitement until opening night.