Do your shots never seem to hit the mark? Do customers cower and flee from your presence? Do you hear rumblings about a rebellion amongst your clients?

If so, your company might be a Galactic Empire.

Luke Skywalker and his ragtag band of rebels downed the Galactic Empire in “Star Wars Episode VI: The Return of the Jedi.” The Empire’s CEO and Brand Manager, Emperor Palpatine, thought he had everything under control—until he was thrown into the Death Star’s reactor shaft by his fellow Sith and second-in-command, Darth Vader.

You don’t want to be a Galactic Empire.

With the newest installment of Star Wars coming to a galaxy near you on December 18th, we’re still unsure about the status of the Empire. According to reports, the remnants of the Empire were forced to rebrand and now refer to themselves as the First Order.

In light of the upcoming movie and the now-defunct Empire, we’ll use this article to share five warning signs that your small business’s marketing strategy mirrors the tactics of the Galactic Empire. Even if these tactics grant you a fleeting moment of power, we all know how it will end—with belligerent clients and a long, metaphorical tumble down the reactor shaft.

1. Do You (Attempt to) Control Information?

“The more you tighten your grip, Tarkin, the more star systems will slip through your fingers.” – Princess Leia Organa

Leia’s words to Empire leader Grand Moff Tarkin would prove prophetic. Between Darth Vader’s mystical Sith powers and Tarkin’s state-of-the-art Death Star, the Empire figured that they could exert enough control to make any planet cower in fear. But more and more fighters joined the Rebel Alliance as they realized that the Empire had no intentions of playing fair.

Sometimes digital marketing gives your company a similar illusion of control. You might think that with a few simple mouse clicks and the wave of your hand, you can delete unflattering remarks and reviews on your company’s website or social media page. But the internet has a certain talent for publicizing censored information—a phenomenon commonly referred to as the Streisand effect.

Sometimes the Streisand effect hits really hard, with multiple news companies picking up the story of a company’s attempts to obscure or remove information. But even if you dodge a massive PR scandal, you will slowly deteriorate the trust of your customers with repeated attempts at information control.

2. Do You Resort to the Dark Side of the Force?

“Fear is the path to the dark side.” – Yoda

Fear can be a powerful motivator—which can be a good thing, like when fear motivates you to run really fast from a wampa or rancor beast. However, as Yoda sagely reminds us, fear often leads us to the dark side. Darth Vader, one of the key figures in the formation of the Galactic Empire, was largely motivated by fear.

A healthy fear can also have a positive influence on a business—fear of the consequences might help us finally sign those expense reports, for example. But an unhealthy anxiety occasionally convinces companies to turn to the dark side.

You might be afraid that your small business will never climb search engine rankings. But don’t give in to the dark side of SEO, often called black-hat tactics. You might wonder if keyword stuffing, hidden text, or doorway pages might be the only answer to your company’s search results, but black-hat practices only yield short-term benefits, if they yield benefits at all. Look for strategies that offer your small business a new hope instead.

3. Is Your Company Complacent?

“Evacuate? In our moment of triumph? I think you overestimate their chances.” – Grand Moff Tarkin

Famous last words, Tarkin. Mere moments after the Grand Moff scoffed at the Rebellion’s chances, the first Death Star exploded. The Empire ignored a two-meter thermal exhaust port, and Luke Skywalker and the Rebels managed to exploit that weakness.

Apparently, Galactic Empires never learn.

In “Return of the Jedi,” Empire Palpatine attempts to trick the Rebel Alliance into overcommitting against a seemingly helpless second Death Star. Death Star 2.0 had a new feature—shields that would protect the space station from any attack. The shield generator was on the nearby forest moon of Endor. With only a bunch of teddy bear–like creatures called Ewoks on the planet, the shield generator seemed secure.

Once again, the Empire’s complacency was its downfall. A small rebel force teamed with the furry ursine warriors on the planet to destroy the shield generator and embarrass all stormtroopers everywhere.

Yoda reminded us that “size matters not.” If your small business gets complacent, you might start to ignore the Ewoks and exhaust ports that crop up. The result could be devastating. An example to keep in mind? Mobile marketing. Many companies ignore the growth of smartphones and continue to rely on outdated web design principles. Don’t be one of those companies.

4. Does Your Content Lack Variety?

“Hmm! Adventure. Hmmpf! Excitement. A Jedi craves not these things.” – Yoda

On the one hand, you could say that Emperor Palpatine was a great brand manager. The overwhelming sea of stormtroopers in matching white armor. The harsh geometric designs of each ship. The Emperor was certainly committed to a recognizable brand image. Still, wouldn’t it have been nice to throw in just a bit of color to offset the overwhelming palette of black, white, and steel?

Jedi might not crave excitement and adventure, but most customers do. Consistency can be a great strength, but churning out the same content over and over gets a little repetitive for your client. Be consistent in how often you release content, but try to release different types of content to keep customers interested:

  • Blogging helps your search rankings and provides dependable, digestible content.
  • The occasional image or infographic provides a bite-size reminder of your service to customers.
  • A video creates unique visual interest and often ends up with a lot of social media shares.
  • In-depth articles and e-books help customers fully commit to a product and establish brand loyalty and trust.

It’s okay to start small as a small business. But as you continue to grow and create more content, remember to vary your approach or you risk becoming a monochromatic Galactic Empire.

5. Do You Have Division in Your Ranks?

“Don’t try to frighten us with your sorcerer’s ways, Lord Vader.” – Admiral Motti

Admiral Motti likely regretted those words after Vader held him in a Force choke for his disturbing lack of faith. The upper command of the Empire was full of volatile positions. Darth Vader Force choked several top leaders, sometimes to their death. And the previously loyal Vader ended up killing his master, Palpatine.

When it comes to marketing, you can’t afford this type of infighting over content decisions. First, Force chokes will get you in huge trouble with the HR department. Second, arguments and conflicting content will result in a disorganized brand.

When everyone in a small business commits to the same vision, the results can be extraordinary. Of course team members will have disagreements, but those disagreements should lead to constructive conversations and eventual agreements. Once your team gets on the same page, the galaxy is yours.

Don’t go the way of the Galactic Empire. If you recognize any of these warning signs in your own small business, start making changes right away. Here is one last Star Wars quote for motivation.

“A Jedi must have the deepest commitment, the most serious mind.” – Yoda

 

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6 Comments

  • Caz*, November 30, 2015 @ 12:22 am

    This is so awesome and such a creative approach to the subject Skye!!! Are you a huge Star Wars fan?

  • Matt Christensen, December 1, 2015 @ 11:41 am

    No bad wishes against any HR department, but you know Darth Vader would force choke them first to make sure there are no HR consequences :). Seriously, how would it have been to be around someone who’s first reaction is to force choke you?!

  • Maria Williams, December 7, 2015 @ 10:00 am

    Great article Skye. I like that you quote the some of the characters of Star wars and explain the importance of good SEO and not to good to the dark side

  • Claudia Gaitan, December 11, 2015 @ 7:43 am

    This is brilliant. I had to share it with my co-workers. Great job!

  • Robin Johnson, December 15, 2015 @ 5:18 pm

    Favorite Sentence: “Even if these tactics grant you a fleeting moment of power, we all know how it will end—with belligerent clients and a long, metaphorical tumble down the reactor shaft.”

    2nd Favorite Sentence: “First, Force chokes will get you in huge trouble with the HR department.”

    Really, though, this was brilliant. It was both humorous and really really relevant. I especially enjoyed your first point about not controlling or obscuring information…it really does erode customer trust, which turns even more people against companies who do it. But really, every single one of your points was really important.

  • TJ Mitchell, December 17, 2015 @ 12:08 pm

    What a great article. I feel like a lot of businesses fall into the trap of being too much like the empire. It’s very easy to be complacent and arrogant. It’s important to realize that you have to go out and reprove yourself every single day your in operation.

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