Marketing Lessons from Jar Jar Binks

Last weekend I had the opportunity to coach a high school student who is already pursuing her career goals in film. She has written and produced a couple of short films, is currently working on a music video for one of her original songs and has landed some freelance work on sets around the city.

She asked me to help her with understanding how she needs to start building her online brand. She has so many interests and ideas it was a struggle to bring everything together.

We talked about my favorite definition of brand. “Your brand is what people say about you when you’re not in  the room.” – Jeff Bezos, CEO of Amazon


Jeff Bezos is a man who had a core idea that he developed in many different directions.

But when you are going in so many different directions, the next challenge is understanding who you want to speak to. Who is your ideal audience and why should they care about you? What can you say to make them care about you?

Our evening evolved from a purely marketing conversation to one about movies and directors. The talk of movies turned to talking about Star Wars. Any conversation about Star Wars can go on for days and nights and go into many directions. We talked about what made the original movies so magical. Not only was it that George Lucas was able to create “out-of-this-world” special effects with limited resources, he was able to tap into a story that was deeply meaningful to the audience of the time. It was a story of rebelling against tyranny and the idea of hope for the future, told at a time when a younger generation had been protesting and fighting for change in the country. The heroes of the movie were all flawed, but they were confident about who they were. And there was no doubt about who shot first.

Star Wars was magical and George Lucas was a hero. So what went wrong in 1999 with the release of Star Wars I – The Phantom Menace?

A lot has been written about what went wrong and that night a lot was explored about what went wrong. Jar Jar Binks seems to be the poster child for everything that was wrong with the movie. During the conversation, we stumbled upon an important marketing lesson.

It seems to me that Jar Jar Binks was created for the purpose of speaking to and attracting a younger audience. By thinking about the audience first, the story strayed away from the brand, the core of what people used to say about Star Wars when it was not in the room.

As Jeff Bezos of Amazon has proven, a brand can offer many services to many different people without losing the core of who the brand is and what it stands for.

When George Lucas tried to bring in new stories with new characters, the focus of the Star Wars brand and what it stands for was lost.

The lesson of the night was, know who you are and what you stand for or you will end up with a Jar Jar Binks.


Originally Posted on Sensei Project