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"Star Wars Vault" - a treasure trove of marketing

A "Vault" of marketing trivia
A "Vault" of marketing trivia

Now 30 years old, the movie "Star Wars" is so integrated into popular culture that Vice President Dick Cheney jokes that being called iconic arch-villain Darth Vader was "one of the nicer things I've been called recently."

"The characters and the dialogue have just totally permeated pop culture all over the world. There are very few places that people wouldn't know what you were talking about," says author Stephen Sansweet, director of content management and fan relations at Lucasfilm.

Sansweet is the author of "The Star Wars Vault," an oversize book that looks back over the three decades of the marketing of "Star Wars." The movie's merchandise has garnered $13 billion worldwide so far, according to the book.

"Vault" is an excellent overview of building and marketing a brand name and should appeal to more than "Star Wars" fans, despite its price.

Over the decades the "Star Wars" brand has appeared in places such as Puffs tissue boxes, Coca-Cola bottle caps, Pez candy dispensers, and in 2002, a R2-D2 refrigerator.

Along the way, "Star Wars" was tailored to other cultures. In Japan, a steam vaporizer was made in the shape of Darth Vader, the ultimate heavy breather. In Australia, Harper's Dog Chow kibble included "Return of the Jedi" stickers in each 20-pound bag.

For Sansweet, it became a matter of "what do we leave out? We had all this incredible stuff — the research library, the archives and the nooks and crannies, we could have filled 50 volumes like this." Finally, everyone involved decided that they'd include what "really shows Stars Wars in a creative way."

Photos of fans clad as Imperial Stormtroopers and mentions of fan-produced films such as Pink Five and amateur fiction fanzines, Skywalker, are also included in the "Vault."

Sansweet adds, "Fans have a sense of ownership of this movie ... if (they) don't like something, our fans are not reluctant or shy to speak up. We'd rather have it this way than have passive people. Everybody's a critic."

Lucasfilm plans on releasing a cartoon series in 2008 and a live-action series in 2009, so look forward to the "Vault," Volume Two. It's unlikely to take 30 years to fill it.