In a recent conversation with a chief technology officer, he asserted all digital technology changes in his organisation were being led by IT and not by marketing. It made me wonder: How long a marketing function like this could survive?
The original Death Star had a diameter of 140Km, was crewed by 1.7 million personnel, and had the ability to destroy a planet.
Sean Andrews’ version doesn’t pack quite that firepower, but it is still an impressive undertaking. Andrews and his band of rebels at the small Australian electronics startup have successfully taken on the Empire-sized Disney corporation and convinced it to license Plox’ version of the Death Star to taken on the entire planet.
Andrews and the team at Plox have reimagined the Death Star as a scale-model Bluetooth speaker that uses magnets to levitate above its base.
And their timing couldn’t be better, with the December cinema release of Rogue One – A Star Wars Story, and 2017 marking the 40th anniversary of the film that started it all.
Andrews says he first came up with the idea in early 2015 when he saw another version of a levitating speaker.
“We looked at it and said, ‘hey, wait a second, maybe we can make that into a Death Star’,” Andrews recalls.
That idea was sent to a designer, and Plox began building out its go-to-market strategy. That meant winning Disney’s approval. But like the mission that destroyed the original Death Star in the 1977 film, the approach would not be easy.
“We contacted a friend who is in the licensing space and had sold licensed products in with Disney,” Andrews says.
That put them in touch with Disney itself, but it took connections with another three people to find the one they needed to deal with. From there, things happened quickly.
“Rather than just pitching, we went and made one, and brought it in to them,” Andrews says. “By this point your nerves are there, and you just hope the product works when you get it in the room.
“But we had the product in hand, which really sold itself. So we kind of let it do the talking. And that was it.”
The company also developed a merchandising plan that covered everyone from small businesses to large footprint and online stores. Andrew says their efforts were helped by Plox’s heritage in creating and marketing consumer technology, such as portable charging devices, which it had succeeded in having ranged in Dick Smith, Harvey Norman, Big W and airport electronics retailers. The company had also been named as an honouree at the 2015 Consumer Electronics Show awards for innovation in portable power.
Then six months later the company was pitching to Disney.
“In 2015 when we stated engaging them we really only hoped to get Australia and New Zealand as a starting point,” Andrews says. “And after month and month and months they said ‘hey, you guys seem to know that you are doing, let’s bring that global.”
The company has now taken its Death Star to Switzerland, Germany, the UK,and Benelux nations, and are planning on opening up Asia.
“We’re happy with the way it’s gone,” Andrews says. “We’ve definitely noticed the strengths of the Star Wars franchise. It is one of those unbelievable ones where everyone gets it, and you realise how strong Disney is as a global powerhouse and branding company.”
Andrews saysPlox will continue to develop its charger and accessories business, with a focus on a ‘junior’ product line, but the success of the Death Star hasdefinitely got the company considering other licencing deals.
Andrews is adamant that other brands should not feel trepidations when reaching out to behemoths like Disney.
“Just take the punt,” Andrews says. “If you’ve got a good idea and want to run with it, reach out. It doesn’t hurt these days to make a phone call or send an email.”