May The 4th Be With You - Copywriting Lessons From A Galaxy Far, Far Away

‘May the Fourth’ – Get it? It’s a pun…

A long time ago, in a galazy far, far away… Or in 1977 in the USA, depending on who you believe, a bearded film-maker managed to produce a cinematic classic. Now, 38 years, one brilliant sequel, one decent attempt and three decidedly ropey follow-ups later (with another on the cards very soon), geeks across the galaxy spend May 4th celebrating Star Wars.

But is there something you can learn from the film? You won’t learn that a Parsec is a measurement of time, not distance, but you might just learn a few Jedi copywriting tricks.

Keep Your Story Simple

He’s Just a Poor Boy, From a Poor Family…

Star Wars is a hugely complex story about galactic politics, mystic psychic powers, technology beyond our ken and strange alien creatures. Or it’s a simple story about a band of heroes – the rogue, the wise man, the naive farmhand and the princess, who unite to fight a seemingly all-powerful evil.

To be effective, even the most complex narrative must be able to be reduced to something understandable. And that’s doubly true for copywriting. No matter how complex the product or service, you need to simplify it. Make the prospect the hero, the problem the evil and the product the solution.

Oh – and make sure your hero knows what to do. Whether that’s buying the product or shooting a proton torpedo into a ridiculous catastrophic explosion-generating hole.

Judge [Copy] Not By Its Size

Yoda is about 3 foot tall or something. And he throws X-Wings about like they’re scale models cleverly composited into the scene using digital trickery. And that’s all thanks to LucasArts’ SFX department The Force.

Your copy can be short too. But that doesn’t mean that it isn’t powerful. Just make sure that you’ve honed your Jedi copywriting skills and ensure that it packs a punch. Short, punchy copy is memorable – just like Master Yoda. Long, rambling copy is unpleasant and a waste of everyone’s time – just like Attack of the Clones.

Learn From Your Mistakes…

Jar Jar Binks makes the Ewoks look like… fucking Shaft!

Tim Bisley, Spaced

If you’ve upset people with a shower of Ewoks in 1983, don’t try and introduce even more irritating merchandise-driven characters 16 years later.

And if a style, tone or technique has upset a client, don’t try wheeling it out with CGI bells attached to it. Because it’s going to irritate them. Learn from your mistakes, don’t repeat them in 3D…

… And Don’t Change What Works

Maybe you’re not the best writer ever, but you’ve stumbled across a really memorable narrative. Like a scoundrel who starts the film shooting people through the brain, and ends it being all heroic and getting medals from the Princess.

Whatever you do, don’t go back and change it. Sometimes magic and inspiration will hit you, and you’ll produce something of stunning quality on the very first try. If you’ve got that ‘nailed it’ feeling in your gut, show it to people and get a second opinion. Don’t go second guessing and ruining things by letting Greedo get a shot off. Have some courage and confidence in your own hard work.

And remember Luke, the force will be with you. Always.


4 Comments comments for "May The 4th Be With You – Copywriting Lessons From A Galaxy Far, Far Away"

  1. Rezbi at 6:13 am

    Copywriting takes work. That’s something most new writers don’t seem to understand.

    In order to make copy easier to read, more work needs to be put into it. Another thing most new copywriters fail to understand.

  2. Ralph Ferrett at 7:29 am

    I impressed mate didn’t think you would manage to get this long without blogging so good work.

    But really did you have to ruin my morning by reminding me of George Lucas ruining Han? Did you think about that? 😉

  3. Nick Cobb at 9:04 pm

    Cracking Star Wars/copywriting analogy! I did it myself on my blog a while back but it wasn’t anywhere near as comprehensive as this. If you haven’t seen the Family Guy “Star Wars” episodes, watch them. They’re fantastic!

    Peter Griffin: “This is a story of love and loss, fathers and sons, and the foresight to retain international merchandising rights. This is the story of Star Wars. Let’s begin with part four.”

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