Clive Humby: Star Wars bridges the gender gap like no other franchise

The release this week of Star Wars: The Force Awakens has generated a marketing frenzy of commercials, merchandise and brand tie-ins. Clive Humby, co-founder of Tesco’s customer science firm Dunnhumby and chief data scientist at Starcount, explains why the franchise is fertile territory for marketers seeking to cross the gender divide.

Star Wars: The Force Awakens is already a phenomenon. Tickets for the US opening sold out online and crashed several ticketing websites on the first day of pre-sales. The final trailer broke the record for the most views in 24 hours. The film is expected to become one of the highest grossing of all time. For marketers seeking to leverage the franchise on behalf of their brands, the question is who are these dedicated fans who are generating such excitement around the film – and what else do they love?

In looking at the fans of the official @starwars Twitter handle, we found that although the Star Wars UK fan base on Twitter is heavily male dominated (77%), the females that also love Star Wars are incredibly similar to the men.

The top 10 passion areas for males and females across all ages in the UK are 100% the same (movies, animations, comic books, gaming, theme parks, books and literature, rock music, punk/alternative music, shopping, and space and astronomy). In observing the top 100 influencers (which can be any brand, celebrity, media, etc) for each gender, we also found that there is an 83% similarity for both males and females.

In comparing the Star Wars fan base to other male-dominated action movie franchises, with films such as Jurassic Park, Spiderman and Fast & Furious, the similarities between their male and female fans averaged at 72% across passion areas and influencers.

While the male and female Star Wars fans are the most similar to any male-dominated movie franchise we have found so far, there are of course some differences between the two genders. While the female fans love The Hobbit, JK Rowling, Disney and the Foo Fighters, the male fans have a particular love for Bad Robot, IGN, Zack Snyder, Sylvester Stallone, EA and Ubisoft.

Star Wars has come under heavy criticism in the past for the lack of diversity and equality when it comes to strong female roles. With only one important female character per Star Wars trilogy and many more male protagonists, the saga seems to have been targeted mainly towards males. Regardless, Star Wars was able to gather female followers who were not put off by the lack of diversity.

The launch of the new film sees some attempts to rectify this. Daisy Ridley is Star Wars’ first female protagonist, while Princess Leia has become ‘General’ and her bikini has been swapped for a Spartan Uniform. Given that the film is beginning to diversify and potentially appeal in more equal measures to men and women, it will be interesting to check back in on the data and see whether the interests of the male and female fans will remain as similar as they currently are or whether the ‘personality’ of the male and female fans diversifies with it.

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