Multiple retailers tied in to the second-ever observance of "Force Friday," a Black Friday-style marketing event designed to build excitement around the Star Wars franchise.

Walt Disney Co.'s next Star Wars film, Star Wars: The Last Jedi, won't have its theatrical debut until Dec. 15, but the Force Friday weekend-long celebration kicked off at midnight on Sept. 1 to mark the advance launch of a slew of toys, collectibles, games and other licensed products tied to the film.

This year, Disney and Lucasfilm leveraged augmented reality to stage a treasure hunt at participating retailers. Smartphone-wielding shoppers using the Star Wars mobile application could unlock characters from the upcoming film by scanning Star Wars graphics with the "Find the Force" logo in stores and/or online at retailers including Walmart, Target, Staples, Petco, Meijer, Kroger's Fred Meyer and Best Buy.

Each graphic revealed a different AR character every day from Sept. 1-3, drawing fans back to retailers or their websites for repeat visits to earn digital rewards as they collected more characters.

Participants who shared a photo or video of one or more of the 15 available characters on Twitter or Instagram with the hashtags #FindTheForce and #Sweepstakes also vied for a grand-prize trip for four to Los Angeles to attend the global premiere of Star Wars: The Last Jedi and to San Francisco to tour the Lucasfilm offices. Fifty secondary winners got a Star Wars prize pack including items such as toys and books. New York-based LeadDogMarketing Group handled.

Promotional activity surrounding the global Force Friday event was customized across retailers:

Walmart

Standees positioned near store entrances delivered the Find the Force logos, while a barrage of licensed toys earned secondary merchandising space on pallet displays in Action Alley beginning at midnight on Sept. 1. Select locations in cities including Boston, Chicago, Dallas and Los Angeles held weekend events in stores and parking lots offering "Be Jedi Ready" games, activities, giveaways and exclusive-product demos.

A six-foot-tall model of Luke Skywalker from Star Wars: The Force Awakens made out of more than 36,000 Lego bricks made an appearance at Walmart's Orlando, FL, store as part of a six-city nationwide Walmart store tour leading up to Force Friday II. The model was first unveiled at San Diego Comic-Con. An Aug. 15 Facebook update from Walmart plugged the creation.

General Mills also deployed a "Be Jedi Ready" pallet display stocking select cereal brands in promotional packaging delivering coupons for $10 off Hasbro's "Force Link" starter set. A display ad running throughout walmart.com supports.

Additional digital activity included a home page carousel ad and a category ad on the drop-down department menu for "toys & video games" that led to a seasonal showcase. The destination continues to spotlight featured products, let visitors shop by category, and offer a trailer for the upcoming film. It also links to a page explaining the scavenger hunt and offering several Find the Force graphics, as well as e-commerce pages for preorders of EA Sports' Star Wars Battlefront II, toys licensed from Lucasfilm Animation's Star Wars Forces of Destiny web series, and Star Wars Lego sets from Lego Group.­­­­­

A full-page feature in the mass merchant's Sept. 1 circular plugged several licensed products including two exclusives: a Funk Pop! Princess Leia vinyl figure and a "Luke's Landspeeder" set from Lego.

Target

Revisiting various tactics used during Force Friday 2015, Target opened more than 500 of its 1,816 stores at midnight Sept. 1 to unveil hundreds of new Star Wars toys, collectibles, apparel, books and other official merchandise. An Aug. 27 circular feature teased the event, promising shoppers a free $10 or $25 gift card with a Star Wars purchase of more than $50 or $100, respectively, and a chance to win a 4-foot Star Wars character plush at participating stores. Valid Sept. 1-9, the gift card promotions excluded Lego Group SKUs and clearance items.

The mass merchant's Star Wars product lineup includes exclusives such as:

  • a 10-inch plush version of a Porg, avians that flock Luke Skywalker’s secluded island in the upcoming film.
  • a 6-inch Stormtrooper "executioner" from Hasbro's Black Series action figure line.
  • a 24-inch BB-9E droid plush toy.
  • a collection of six 12-inch figurines from Hasbro that depict characters from the movie.
  • the Phasma (Star Wars): Journey to Star Wars: The Last Jedi book by Delilah S. Dawson with exclusive bonus content.

In stores, door clings, standees (some depicting the Find the Force logo), as well as rack and in-line headers drummed up support for the new merchandise. Motion-activated endcaps in the toy department depicting film heroine Rey holding a lightsaber encouraged shoppers to "use the force" and place their hand over a section of the display, which made the lightsaber glow. At select stores, the retailer also covered the bollards outside entrances with depictions of droid BB-8. A two-page feature in the retailer's Sept. 3 circular, a video on the retailer's YouTube channel (see below), Twitter updates and a promotional page on target.com supported.

Best Buy

The electronics retailer marked the occasion by releasing a bevy of exclusive products, including collectibles from Funko Pop!, licensed headphones from SDI Technologies’ iHome, and special editions of Lenovo’s Yoga 910 2-in-1 laptop bearing Rebel Alliance and Galactic Empire logos.

Sept. 6 Facebook and Twitter updates plugged the SKUs and linked to a promotional showcase on bestbuy.com that links to e-commerce pages for licensed electronics, toys, apparel and film titles.

The page also invites shoppers to preorder Disney and Lenovo’s Star Wars: Jedi Challenges, an augmented reality gaming system set to release Nov. 3. It includes a VR headset, lightsaber controller and tracking beacon, which together simulate a real battle experience. A separate landing page for the product launched in late July, hosting a trailer and allowing visitors to sign up for email updates on its availability.

An Aug. 31 email blast and paid search ads on Google support. In other online activity, the retailer enlisted various tech bloggers to review Propel’s Star Wars "collector edition" aerial drones on Twitter.

In stores, a floorstand merchandised app-enabled droids from Sphero. Select stores also held demo events from Sept. 1-3. 

Amazon

Amazon employed paid search ads for the term "Force Friday" to drive consumers to a corresponding results page within its website. There, a top-of-the-page ad redirected visitors to a "Force Friday II" showcase. The destination continues to offer an extensive lineup of licensed merchandise, while its rotating carousel ads spotlight products from key manufacturers:

  • An ad for Hasbro toys and games links to a corresponding e-commerce page.
  • An ad for Lego building sets links to a dedicated showcase offering several build models. The page is enhanced with a promotional skin and 360-degree rotating view of the BB-8 droid model.
  • An ad for Sphero droids links to a corresponding e-commerce page for three of the app-enabled devices.
  • An ad for Philips Norelco special edition "Star Wars Shavers" links to a corresponding e-commerce page offering licensed shavers ranging in price from $40 to $250.

A display ad within the destination also dangles a free movie ticket with purchase of a Millennium Falcon playset from Mattel's Hot Wheels.

Staples

The office supply chain shone a spotlight on Propel's Star Wars aerial drones via upfront table displays flanked by Find the Force standees. In-store kiosks were also outfitted with signage promoting the drones and upcoming film, directing shoppers to staples.com for more product choices. 

On staples.com, a home page display ad directs shoppers to an e-commerce page listing all Star Wars merchandise available through the retailer. An ad in a Sept. 6 email blast as well as Sept. 1 Facebook and Twitter updates touted the drones and directed users to the e-commerce page.

Meijer

Meijer reprised many of the tactics it used during the 2015 event, building anticipation with a countdown on a promotional page within meijer.com that gave way to links to relevant e-commerce pages. A Sept. 1 email blast, Facebook updates, a feature in the digital version of the mass merchant's Aug. 27/31 circular, and a home page display ad linked to the page, with many of the creative elements also promoting the AR app. The 24-hour retailer made the products available at 12:01 a.m. Sept. 1. Stanchion signs plugged the new SKUs in stores.

Petco

Petco used the occasion to promote the addition of Star Wars: The Last Jedi pet toys to its exclusive Star Wars Pet Fans Collection line, which received secondary merchandising space on floorstands in stores. A home page carousel ad on petco.com, an ad in a Sept. 1 email, and Facebook and Twitter updates link to an e-commerce page for the brand, which also plugged the AR app.

A feature in the retailer's Aug. 20 circular previewed the line and plugged a themed grooming salon package that includes a limited edition Star Wars Pet Fans Collection bandana. Stanchion signs, window posters and an ad in a concurrent email also promoted the service.

Other

Popchips released a new licensed “galaxy puffs” SKU in anticipation of the film, deploying floorstands in stores including Albertsons Cos. and Kroger's Fry's Food that depict R2-D2 and Chewbacca. The manufacturer previously released limited edition flavors of its flagship brand for the 2015 release of Star Wars: The Force Awakens.