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Lessons from ‘Star Trek’: Rebooting Your Brand for the Next Generation

It’s hard to stay relevant from generation to generation. Tastes change, the economy goes up and down, and brands that ruled in one decade could become completely obsolete in the next.

Yet, even with so much uncertainty, there are brands that have managed to stay interesting and relevant for years. And one of them is the Star Trek brand. Even though the original run of the series premiered in 1966, the multiple series and movies have sustained brand enthusiasm for years and now there are more fans than ever.

So how’d they do it? In addition to great writing and acting talents, the creators did four things right. I could probably write an entire book about how Star Trek kept their brand fresh for decades. But for the sake of brevity, we’re just going to focus on the original series vs. the J.J. Abrams reboot movies.

Keep the Familiar…

The Star Trek brand hit a bump in the road around the early 2000s. The movies with the Next Generation cast weren’t doing so hot, and the series Enterprise quickly went from must-see TV to “This is still a thing?”

So how does one fix a brand like Star Trek? It was time for Star Trek to get back to its roots. And that’s one of the reasons that J.J. Abrams rebooted the brand and used the original characters that first enchanted sci-fi audiences back in the ‘60s.

Nothing says Star Trek like Spock and Kirk.

Nothing says Star Trek like Spock and Kirk.

By using these characters Abrams could capture the interest of long-standing fans along with newer fans that have probably heard of Kirk and Spock before, but may not have watched any of the original content. Rebooting the original crew along with Starfleet and the Enterprise meant that fans could have a touchstone in the new movies.

When thinking of how to keep your own brand relevant, consider what part of your brand is popular. Is it your design? Your customer service? Make sure that you keep something familiar so that you don’t seem like a completely new company.

…But Update for the Times

Even though Abrams used the characters from the ‘60s, that didn’t mean that everything else was going to be stuck in the ‘60s. New fans – and let’s be real, old fans – would’ve been a little disappointed if they saw the old bridge and uniforms when they went to see the new movie.

Instead the bridge sported LED lights, touch screen technology, and projections. The male uniforms were upgraded from bell bottoms to straight legs made with a jeans material. The female uniforms were still dresses, but the skirts are a touch longer and they have short sleeves.

Once you get past serious business!Sulu, you can see the updated bridge.

Once you get past serious business!Sulu, you can see the updated bridge.

Now the Enterprise and her crew look convincingly like they’re in the 23rd century.

Likewise, you should make sure that you’re keeping up with what your customers want. Study sales, conduct surveys, and market test your products. For example, you may have been making cars for the last fifty years. But you certainly wouldn’t make a car now without a jack for an iPod or a USB port.

Mix in Some Current Trends

After the success of the first Star Trek reboot movie in 2009, it was highly unlikely that Star Trek Into Darkness wasn’t going to do well. But J.J. Abrams gave himself a little popularity safety net by casting breakout actor Benedict Cumberbatch as villain John Harrison.

For those of you who are not familiar with the actor and/or don’t go on Tumblr often, Benedict Cumberbatch is the star of BBC’s Sherlock. You can see his work in plenty of movies, TV series, and radio shows. But acting talent aside, his huge fanbase is one of the reasons for his meteoric rise to fame. After this casting announcement was made, you can bet that his fans were going to flock to the film.

The man, the legend, the Cumberbatch.

The man, the legend, the Cumberbatch.

What can you tap into that your customers currently love? Is there a certain fashion style that you can integrate into your products? You shouldn’t bend your product or service to fit the current trends of the time, but you should add in trends if they can fit in easily with your brand.

Take the Time to do it Right

J.J. Abrams hooked old and new fans with the first reboot movie in 2009. Based on the renewed interest in the brand and strong box office numbers, it was certain that the next installment was going to be fast-tracked. But Abrams and screenwriters opted to take their time with the script and production to make sure that they could craft another excellent story.

It's worth the wait for these kinds of results.

It’s worth the wait for these kinds of results.

In the rush to keep your brand relevant, it can be easy to skip over small details. But nobody is going to renew or build their brand loyalty when brands to produce less-than-excellent products. Take your time to craft a great user experience and you’ll have renewed interest in no time.

So how can you beam up your brand for years to come? Let’s do a quick recap:

  • Find out what your audience loves about your products and make sure that you keep those traits.
  • Make sure that you upgrade your services to include must-have features for the current times.
  • See if a current trend can fit into your product and jump on the popularity bandwagon.
  • Don’t rush! It is better to take your time to be right than to release something that your fans won’t care for.

Have you seen the new Star Trek films? Any other tips to keep your brand fresh for future voyages?

Expand Your Brand!

ALL IMAGES ARE LOW RES SCREEN SHOTS FROM THE STAR TREK FACEBOOK PAGE. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.


Mandy Kilinskis

Mandy is proud to be a part of QLP’s content team. A self-professed nerd, her interests include video games, sitcoms, superhero movies, iPods and iPhones but never Macs, and shockingly, writing. Her claims to fame are: owning over forty pairs of Chuck Taylor All Stars, offering spot-on coffee advice, and knowing an unbelievable amount of Disney Princess facts. You can connect with Mandy on

Comments

  1. Wash

    After seeing what Abrams has done with Star Trek, there is no doubt in my mind that he will treat Star Wars with respect and (hopefully) resonate with the die-hard fans for years.

    I mean…they can’t be any worse than the prequels, right!?

    • Mandy Kilinskis

      I feel like it’s impossible to make them worse than the prequels. As long as there’s no podracing it will already be better.

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