May the Force (of Marketing) Be With You

From Screaming Chewbacca Ring Tones to Darth Vader PCs, New 'Star Wars' Gear Floods Stores


May 10, 2005 — When Mr. Potato Head was tempted by the Dark Side of the Force and emerged as Darth Tater, with helmet, cape and lightsaber, we knew this would be a year for "Star Wars" marketing like no other.

Suddenly, Chewbacca is here, ready to soak you with his Wookiee Water Blaster and Darth Vader will do battle with any 7-year-old armed with a light-up SaberSpoon pulled from a Kellogg's cereal box.

The final installment of the most successful film franchise in history, "Star Wars: Episode III — Revenge of the Sith," hits theaters May 19, and the onslaught of advertising has begun.

Already we're seeing the M&M mascots dressed up as "Star Wars" characters and splayed on billboards, candy wrappers and NASCAR vehicles driven by Dale Jarrett and Elliott Sadler.

Burger King and Cingular Wireless are featuring R2-D2, C-3PO and Darth Vader in TV ads, while Pepsi has nailed down exclusive rights to Yoda. Burger King is also unveiling a "Star Wars" scratch-and-win game and star-and-lightning-bolt-shaped chicken tenders.

While marketing for "Shrek," "Harry Potter" and "The Incredibles" movies has been intense, "Star Wars" has a much broader target audience. The space saga began in 1977 — and three prequels over the last six years have made the Force strong in a whole new generation.

Here's a look at some of the more interesting toys and advertising campaigns hitching their wagon to the Millennium Falcon and other star cruisers. Believe it or not, there are also several groups using movie hype to raise money for charity and get people to go to church.

1. The Darth Vader Voice Changer Mask

Destined to be one of the hottest toys this Christmas — or at least an amusing way to deal with pesky telephone solicitors — is Hasbro's $30 strap-on mask and chest plate that will transform your voice into the diabolical tones of Darth Vader.

The headgear runs on three AAA batteries. Speak into the microphone, and suddenly, you'll sound just like James Earl Jones, the voice of the Sith Lord. A career as a Verizon spokesman may be in your future.