Pop-culture references and other quirky concepts becoming unofficial holidays are nothing new. This annual spoof holiday began back in 1977 with the release of George Lucas's Star Wars franchise. A play on words of the famous line said periodically throughout the trilogy and its 21st century follow-ups, "may the force be with you.", May 4th has become a digital darling among social media users around the world.
May the fourth be with you! It's hilarious, am I right?
While it's obviously not an official holiday anywhere, this goofy day has exploded in popularity, especially as the long-running franchise, now owned by Disney since 2012, continues to expand, bringing in new, younger fans around the world.
Unless you're Disney or a video game studio, chances are that this isn't exactly going to be the biggest retail day of the year for you or your business, but that doesn't mean you can't take advantage!
The value here lies not in direct sales, but in branding and the sending of a fun, light-hearted message to your followers that keeps them engaged.
An important caveat before you start:
Just because everyone is doing it, doesn't mean they're doing it legally.
Before you go rushing off to create a brilliant ad campaign featuring light sabers and Stormtroopers, it's important first to know that Star Wars and most of the stuff that goes with it is part of a heavily copyrighted franchise. In fact, Walt Disney Studios owns something approaching 4,000 copyrights that span words, names, and other Star Wars stuff such as costumes, soundbites, music, and other imagery. This includes some pretty weird and oddly specific items that might surprise you.
For context, in the 80s, George Lucas once went after US President Ronald Reagan for trying to name a missile defense system "Star Wars", and a case regarding a Stormtrooper costume ended up in the United States Supreme Court. In an illustration of Disney's power, in the 1990s, a US amendment to copyright law that extended the life of creative copyrights from 75 to 120 years was often jokingly referred to as "The Mickey Mouse Protection Act."
In fact, the actual phrase "May the 4th be with you" is also copyrighted!
Where this list of intellectual properties begins and ends could be hard to pin down, and chances are that your company is most interested in quick and easy, lighthearted content, so you're not going to go digging too deep.
But, with a bit of caution and clever content writing it shouldn't prove too hard to do properly! For a very thorough explanation of the legal side of things, take a look at this article.
To summarize it in just a few words though: your content should be okay if it does not directly feature names or exact specific elements, like logos, etc., of the franchise. You cannot be seen to be directly profiting off the intellectual property of Disney, but obvious yet indirect references are usually okay and we're not here (or qualified) to tell you what you should or should not do.
There's plenty that you can do with a little finesse and creativity.
Here are a couple great examples of Star Wars Day content pieces created by businesses in the past:
This milk was way too cold for a golden bikini. #MayThe4th pic.twitter.com/vRtOewcgCM— OREO Cookie (@Oreo) May 4, 2014
#HappyStarWarsDay pic.twitter.com/R0ZFfsb7Ju— Applebee's Grill + Bar (@Applebees) May 4, 2014
So don't be afraid to let the creative juices flow but know before you go and play it safe!
Alternatively, if your business has the resources and wants to go big, you can always try to get yourself a license to use official material. If you're interested in going down this path, you can find information to get started by following this link to Disney Studio's licensing page. It might be a little late to get started on this approval for 2022, but the great thing about Star Wars Day is that it'll always be back next year!
It's a fun and easy content day that’s reliably enjoyed by a wide audience, just as long as you watch your step with copyrights, or worse, accidentally mix up your fandoms. Confusing Wookies with Klingons could spark a digital lynch mob, so make sure you get your captains and quotes straight before delving into social geekery!
Pro-tip: there are no Klingons in Star Wars.
And lastly, to stay on top of your community management on Star Wars Day, you should take a look at facelifts free two-week trial. Right now is - if you're quick - the perfect time to give it a whirl with your fresh Star Wars Day content with no financial commitment whatsoever. What could be better than that?