The Force for Everyone

I’ll be honest- I’ve never seen a Star Wars film in my life. But I can follow along thanks to all the references I’ve been exposed to over the years. Everyone hates Jarjar (Jar-jar? JarJar?), the solo guy always shoots first, Darth Vader is Luke’s father, princess honeybuns and Luke are related, and a thing called “The Force”. That’s all I really need to know, right?

star-wars-jar-jarjpg-bb74e9d700d8daed
This guy. Not sure who he is and why everyone hates him.  (AP Photo/Lucasfilm Ltd)

And as being in the elusive ‘Millennial’ category, I’ve been getting blasted with advertisements for the new movie that releases this month. It’s obvious of Disney’s possession of Star Wars with all of the partnerships with other companies using characters in their ads. Campbell’s, Kraft Mac n’ Cheese, Subway, Duracell, Covergirl, Verizon, HP… But what got me interested in this soon-to-be-released flick was an article I read off Mashable.

covergirl
Oh, we’re going to fight in war of the stars? Let me cake my face on first.

Apparently, some people are confused on why Target is currently carrying a special edition pack of six figures from The Force Awakens. No problem with that. I’m all for collectible figures. But it’s the figures they decided to include is what’s interesting.

TargetToys
Not really sure who these guys are either.

People have noticed that one of the main characters, Rey, has been left out of the package. It’s a bit odd that they did, seeing as she seems to take the center focus of the movie poster.

star-wars-force-awakens-official-poster-691x1024
Notice the ‘Z’ path your eyes take as you look at it. #advertising (Disney)

The article does clarify that Target offers a Rey figure as an individual pack. And, odds are, Target didn’t choose which characters would be included, but they did choose to purchase it from whoever did. But this isn’t the first time a female has been left out of a Target toy collection for a movie franchise that’s thought to have a traditionally male audience.

AvengersMasks
*cough*
AvengersToy
*coughcough*
9members
*coughco-* Oh, come on, not even when there’s 9 figures?

Including females and generally anyone who doesn’t fit in the generic white male stereotype has always been a struggle in traditional nerd culture, to the point where I’m not surprised that this is still a thing. They’re hardly included in the actual product itself, much less it’s promotion. But a few days after reading this article, I stumbled across this Kohl’s ad:

What I like most about this ad is that there’s no overproduction about the girl being a fan, no “OHMYGERD A GIRL” moment. Just a regular girl who happens to like Star Wars. A pretty normal thing that’s treated as being pretty normal. Which it is. The tag line, ‘A Force For Family’ is also a solid move. Star Wars has become a multi-generational fandom. It’s clear that Kohl’s is trying hard to show that everyone, no matter their age, race, or gender, can be a fan. While I was loving this ad, I noticed that Kohl’s released another with the same type of message:

What a great message of self confidence and promoting the idea that you can like whatever you want to like. Kohl’s has clearly done it’s homework when coming up with this campaign. Without pushing a ‘We’re-Such-A-Great-Company-For-Including-Everyone’ gimmick, they’ve promoted the love people have for this franchise in a classy way. Bonus points for Kohl’s for including different body types as well. And for the win, just look at what kind of toy pack Kohl’s offers:

kohlstoys
Huh. Well hello, Rey.

I’ll leave you with one more:

Maybe that’ll be me if I ever get around to watching one of these things.

3 thoughts on “The Force for Everyone

  1. Alisa Enochs says:

    Love this! Blog off to a good start, I see 🙂

    Okay discussion time. This is a question of morals and ethics, yeah? Advertisers have always claimed to reflect society…do we really have the responsibility to try and change it? If you’re a businessperson, and you know that your target market is young boys, and you know that most young boys still think “girls have cooties,” then wouldn’t it make sense to cut the chicks from the action figure product line?

    (Let’s get off-topic for a second…LOL at the distinction between dolls and action figures AM I RIGHT. They’re all just humanoid-shaped plastic. But god forbid a boy play with a doll or a girl an action figure. Marketing, ladies and gentlemen.)

    Anyway, back to the economics question. If you know that a lot of parents are still in the “boys, blue, masculine, bro vs. girls, pink, feminine, lady” mindset, then you might think the best way to achieve SALES is to stick to what you know. After all, the only reason we use stereotypes is to segment the market place. If we can’t use segmentation to tailor or ads, then it’s all just mass marketing. And don’t you owe it to your investors to try to make money rather than change the world?

    (Plus people are so sensitive these days. Remember what happened when Starbucks changed their cup design? Do you really want to risk that kind of push-back just to, like, be a good person and be able to sleep at night?)

    Talk to me.

    Like

  2. Sara says:

    Aww, thanks Alisa! I’ve finally figured out how to approve comments! Success! And you do raise some interesting questions.

    I feel like the ‘reflecting society’ excuse can be applied to not only messages businesses put out, but also the stereotypical business culture as well. Businesses have been built around a capitalistic society, so it’s no wonder that money is the front thing on everyone’s mind. It’s easy to say that a business ‘must’ behave morally and ethically. But what does that entail? Many businesses would see operating within the law as acting morally and ethically. And that’s what both Target and Kohl’s are doing. But then there’s companies like TOM’S and umano (Go Dawgs) that have a focus on doing good for the greater world, past the idea of profit margins. Is that what we expect all companies to do? To ‘save the world’?

    I don’t exactly defend big corporations for their actions (or lack of), but it’s hard to see how they would change unless forced. I’d like them to, but if they’re still making money off of the same old thing they’ve been doing and no one complains, what’s stopping them? Take even our advertising classes, for example. We’ve already taken four advertising classes, none of which were an ethics class. We’ve even created an entire advertising campaign for a real company and pitched it to them without an ethics class. And think back to the focus of that class: we were only focused on promoting the business to make more money. There was no time we were tasked with making that company a ‘better place.’ I haven’t taken an ethics class for my marketing degree, either.

    The reason why we have this shock reaction to businesses having a focus on only money is that more and more consumers are expecting companies to create and promote this ‘better place’. And if investors notice that ‘doing good’ gives the company more value and more profits, they’ll demand the company to follow suit. But then we’re faced with a dilemma: in order for this to happen, many businesses would have to change their corporate structure. And I’m not sure if or how that can happen. This problem is even reflected in how our classes are set up- if ethics aren’t talked about in our first classes, how can anyone expect ethics to be front of mind when it comes to the real world? I don’t mean to defend those who decide anything that’s morally or ethically questionable is okay; I just want to show that’s there’s more to this picture. Advertisers aren’t inherently evil, they’ve just been conditioned by the world around them to behave in a certain way. Now, whether or not advertisers have a responsibility to act morally and ethically really falls down to the individual person, and what they define morals and ethics as.

    And advertising doesn’t just have to be a mirror- you can also change people’s mindsets if you have a powerful enough message. There’s real power in advertising to change people’s perceptions of things- power that we have to be careful with. (‘With great power comes great responsibility’ comes to mind, but I’m nerdy enough to know that that’s the wrong franchise here). Look at AdCouncil. I specifically remember them creating ads with Hillary Duff (hey now) in an attempt to show how hurtful the phrase ‘that’s so gay’ is to people. Of course, since AdCouncil doesn’t advertise consumer products, it’s easy for them to ‘save the world’ with their ads. But there’s other ways companies can quietly promote things. Speaking of controversies, do you remember that Cheerios ad and how people got offended over a interracial couple and their child? No dialogue mentioned that the family was mixed race. It was a quiet message, one that showed Cheerios is supportive of all races.

    And, in the end, I really think this falls on the parents. Target’s gotten rid of the whole ‘blue=boy pink=girl’ from their toy section in an effort to not stereotype kids. Yes, they may say the focus is on kids, but it’s a parental appeal. I’m sure this change only came about after market testing pools of parents since they’re the ones with the money. Kinda like how current and future advertisers need to be guided towards a moral and ethical mindset from an early age in their career, children should also be taught that it’s okay to like a girl doll/action figure. So long as that character is a good role model. We don’t want our kids running around like Maleficent or something. (And even with trying to come up with a female villain, I’m struggling.)

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Alisa Enochs says:

    A comment on our (lack of) ethics classes – remember the ethics unit in Marketing 3000? It was a little extreme for me. Let’s review (now that the final is over, it seems like a great time to actually think about the material haha). It just seemed excessive.

    We have to conform to the accepted standards of our competitors. We have to follow guidelines set by our own company. We question whether our family and friends would accept our actions. Then we ask ourselves if our role models would approve (Basically, What Would Jesus Do?). Finally – and this is the actual textbook term – we perform the Man in the Mirror Test (Side Note: Sexism in the Business Industry!) to see whether we’re going to be okay with looking at ourselves in the mirror after we perform whatever actions we’re contemplating.

    Extreme.

    And we’re supposed to go through every single one of those norms for every single decision, and if the decision doesn’t pass EVERY SINGLE TEST, then you’re not supposed to do it.

    Listen, I don’t know about you, but I don’t think there’s ANY decision that has an answer mutually agreed upon by me, my family, my friends, my heroes, my boss, AND my industry. Come. On. And I think the fact that we’re being taught to have such unrealistic expectations about ethics makes it seem like our professors/textbook writers/professionals believe ethics are “ideals” that don’t actually have a place in the business world. But maybe that’s cynical.

    On a more positive note, my professor for advertising research had us read the last chapter of the textbook (ethics. of course.) FIRST so that we could cover the topic at length.

    Like

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