Political advertising campaigns figuratively run through a brick wall to get voter attention. But the marketers of movies have a consumer audience that will run through a wall to get obscure facts about the film or the personal lives of the stars.
This week presented a unique opportunity to test consumer and voter engagement around the marketing of a major movie, "The Force Awakens", and the race for President. We commissioned a national survey to research the intersection between pop culture and politics. This survey was not only fun, but insightful. Below are the findings:
INSIGHT #1 - THE UNENGAGED
These results make it clear that there is nothing that "everyone" has seen... or has heard. A full 38% of respondents have never seen a Star Wars movie and small but surprising numbers have not even heard of Star Wars (8%), Hillary Clinton (5%) or Donald Trump (3%). This is definitely a little piece of humble pie served up for any candidate or marketer trying to reach the masses with any message. If Star Wars and a Presidential candidate can't break through the media clutter to some, who can?
INSIGHT #2 - TITANIC TOPS STAR WARS BASED ON GENDER GAP
Comparing a couple of the top grossing films of all-time, Titanic receives an edge in favorabilities (71%-66%) and lower negatives (21%-25%) than Star Wars. Only 6% had never heard of Titanic, while 8% had never heard of Star Wars. There is a huge gender gap with women under 50 having a 15% more "very favorable" impression of Titanic and women over 50 having a 19% more "very favorable" impression of Titanic. Men under 50 definitely prefer Star Wars (50%-37% very favorable impression) over Titanic. Just as many political campaigns come down to a gender gap battle, and so does the comparison of these blockbuster movies.
INSIGHT #3 - POP CULTURAL REFERENCES IN ADVERTISING CAMPAIGNS
The results should encourage political campaigns to selectively use pop cultural in mass communications. If characters as ubiquitous as these are still unknown to many, then no pop cultural reference is universal. Highly targeted, niche communications very well might have more potential when using pop cultural homages.
INSIGHT #4 - TRUMP NEGATIVES HIGHER THAN DARTH VADER & HILLARY
Trump had the highest negatives (54%) of any film character or politician tested, while Hillary Clinton was a close 49%. Darth Vader was at 44% negative. All three had 46% positive ratings though Clinton had the highest "very favorable" of the three at 31%.
INSIGHT #5 - DON'T UNDERESTIMATE THE POWER OF LUKE
Even though Luke Skywalker may not seem to be in vogue as the hippest Star Wars character, his positives were higher (69%) than the movie Star Wars (66%) or "THE FORCE" itself (61%). And when asked about their favorite Star Wars character, Luke (20%) edged out Obi Wan Kenobi (19%), Han Solo (19%), Yoda (18%), Princess Leia (14%) and Darth Vader (10%). Luke's negative rating (21%) was lower than the both movie franchise Star Wars (25%) and "THE FORCE" (27%). We do not have subgroup analysis on Evangelical Christians and whether they are driving up the negative rating of THE FORCE. This might warrant future study.
INSIGHT #6 - MORE ENGAGEMENT WITH PRESIDENTIAL RACE VS. STAR WARS
Respondents were much more informed and engaged with the Presidential campaign than with this particular movie with 78% saying the Presidential campaign was discussed more with their family and friends versus Star Wars (22%). Most consumers/voters polled (94%) had read or heard either a lot or a little about the Presidential race, while a lesser 80% had read or heard a lot about Star Wars at the height of its marketing campaign.
INSIGHT #7 - OPENING WEEKEND: 7% OF AMERICA FIRST IN LINE
At least 7% of Americans saw The Force Awakens opening week. This is amazing when you think about movie attendance, but it also deflects the idea that "everybody" or almost everybody was watching Star Wars.
INSIGHT #8 - NEW DEMOGRAPHIC: STAR WARS FANS (38%) & NON-FANS (38%)
The survey revealed that 56% of people who have seen Star Wars have seen "most" (30%), "all"(14%) or "all of the movies multiple times" (12%), which means 38% of all American could be considered a Star Wars demographic. At the same time 38% had never seen Star Wars, and in a separate question, 38% said they do not plan to see the new movie.
INSIGHT #9 - GEOGRAPHY: MIDWEST & SOUTHWEST = THE FORCE IS STRONG
The Midwest region of the country consistently ranked Stars Wars and its characters higher, versus other regions. The Southwest moviegoers (Texas, New Mexico and Arizona) also had a disproportionately positive view toward Star Wars. The Northeast region gave Star Wars and its characters the lowest and more milquetoast ratings.
FUN FACT: TRUMP RESEMBLES VADER, JABBA & THE EMPEROR
When asked which Star Wars character Donald Trump is most like, the rankings were Darth Vader (16%), Jabba "The Hut" (14%), The Emperor (13%), Luke Skywalker (11%), and Han Solo (9%), with 38% saying they don't know.
SURVEY DETAILS: Fletcher Rowley, Inc. commissioned this survey. It was conducted by automated call from December 18-20, 2015. 750 interviews were completed of residents, not strictly voters, from a sample balanced racially, by age and geographic region of the country. There is a margin of error of +/- 4.7%.