The Baby Yoda Effect: Creating Organic Meme Marketing as Powerful as the Force

Sam Cheng
Sam Cheng
Nov 30, 2019 · 6 min read

Let’s talk about Baby Yoda and a special marketing tactic I am naming after him.

The lil guy is a big f*cking deal right now — he’s everywhere

He’s very damn cute and I have also, like everyone else, fallen completely smitten

But let’s dig deeper into the situation here, namely that:

Baby Yoda, with power akin to the Force, has almost single handedly propelled the launch of Disney Plus to a success.

The lil’ dude with the Mandalorian! Pic: NYT

How?

The Baby Yoda Effect.

There are three steps to creating the Baby Yoda Effect -

  1. Create your very own Baby Yoda — your work’s hook. Your hook will be an integral character/ element that is almost guaranteed to stir up a response. Plan this hook + response well!

The key to creating a successful Baby Yoda Effect is finding a good response mechanism to exploit — something funny/outrageous/cute that the public can share on the Internet — and setting up convenient hook to trigger it.

2. Hide your Baby Yoda. Don’t mention the hook element when promoting the work! As integral as it might be, keep it a secret. Market as usual.

3. Launch your work and watch social media freak the fu*k out over finding your Baby Yoda.

If you set up the hook/response well, people on the Internet will find your surprise element, fall for the hook, and respond with posts/memes/articles.

Let’s look at a couple of case studies, starting from The Mandalorian/ Disney+:

Disney+ was up against some strong competition launching in 2019.

They needed a strong launch to create momentum for the service, as well as have an initial audience to collect crucial data to optimize from.

They pulled a good conservative move by creating an enticing bundle, in Disney+, Hulu, and ESPN+. The three services had variety, and would be offered at the same price as Netflix.

Not a bad initial move for Disney. Pic: Disney+

It was an easy move to make that made sense, but to break through in the streaming service industry with such high barrier to entry, they needed a sledgehammer. Or the Force.

In comes the Mandalorian.

The Mandalorian was marketed as the headlining exclusive series for Disney Plus. Star Wars, being a super popular franchise, was a good choice.

However, there were uncertainties.

The Mandalorian was to be the first Star Wars live-action series. There was no guarantee a Star Wars show would bring success like the movies. Also, the series would be about some random bounty hunter — not about any beloved character with a loyal cult following.

So they employed the secret weapon: Baby Yoda.

First step, choosing a response:

Disney needed to choose a response they wanted to incite, and they chose a response based on cuteness.

As this article points out, Disney has done this multiple times already: with Porgs in the newest Star Wars trilogy, and with Baby Groot in the Guardians of the Galaxy movie.

Left: Porg Plush Pic: Target Right: Baby Groot figurine Pic: Pintrest

The cuteness play is proven, but it is also in with the times with current Internet trends and memes.

The “protect ___ at all costs” meme is active in full swing, being used to propel infantile or wholesome content across social media.

The “pleading eyes” emoji is also statistically on the rise in terms of usage — one that is very applicable in the same situations.

Next, to create a good hook to incite the response, Disney uses Kindchenschema — baby schema.

The idea is that if you create a character that has baby features, adults will feel a natural inclination to care for them.

Key features = big eyes, tiny nose and mouth = Baby Yoda.

Step Two: Don’t talk about it.

Disney kept Baby Yoda a big secret.

If you haven’t seen The Mandalorian, Baby Yoda is a huge part of the show.

Disney didn’t say anything.

Look at the promotional content:

Promotional Posters Pic: Disney

All focused on the Mandalorian and the Space- Western landscape, no sign of anything cute.

Disney’s explanation is that it doesn’t like to spoil its stories, because Disney is all about its stories.

My explanation is that Disney was waiting for people to discover Baby Yoda themselves. On to Step Three.

Step Three: Watch your Baby Yoda pop off.

I don’t need to explain this, consult the webizens for proof.

The character has almost an unanimous approval rating, and Disney+ launched to a success.

There’s a bit more —

Bonus Step Disney employed: Remind the Internet of your Baby Yoda periodically.

Disney chose to release The Mandalorian episode by episode, weekly.

Every decision can be a strategic decision, and this one is huge.

Instead of releasing the entire season in one go, Disney chose to give the Internet an episode a week.

This guarantees that the Baby Yoda trend really rides it out — new memes from new scenes in the show are created each week.

Like this one of Baby Yoda drinkin’ some soup:

As this article pointing out this week’s new Baby Yoda meme says:

“So Thankful for: The Mandalorian!”

And Disney says thanks back for the beautiful organic content you are creating to spread the word for their streaming service.

Another case study: this Tweet

The work: the video in the Tweet

The response planned: holy sh*t look is that a roach?

The hook planted: the fake cockroach taped to the window

The hiding of the hook: the tweet is titled: “My dog is angelic”

The Internet goes nuts:

Most of the comments are about the cockroach, and this retweet about the cockroach has almost 8 (EIGHT!) times the reactions as the original post.

Little Cockroach Effect = Baby Yoda Effect = Almost a million reactions added up, many more impressions.

Another case study: The Tesla Cybertruck?

It still looks so damn weird. Pic: Tesla

The work: the newly anticipated Tesla pickup truck

The response planned: what the fu*k kind of design is that? is the truck rendered properly? look Elon’s crazy new truck!

The hook planted: the “futuristic” sharp edges in the Cybertruck’s design

The hiding of the hook: they did not unveil the design, but highly publicized the event

The Internet goes nuts: same as Baby Yoda, pretty self explanatory response.

When should the Baby Yoda Effect be used?

When there is uncertainty involved in a potential launch of a work, and there is no room for error. If quick exposure is needed with a risky project, this is a great way to go viral.

I have Spoken.

Feel free to message me with more examples, talk to me about the ones above, utilize this in your own projects.

Until next time!

Sam

Read some of my other articles here:

New Crypto on the Block: Facebook’s Libra

Goin’ Back to the Future — Stranger Things Branding (Pt. 2)

The Real-Life Mind Flayer — Stranger Things Branding (Pt.1)

To Infinity and Beyond Meat!

Sam Cheng

Written by

Sam Cheng

writing about branding and product, passionate about the future of children’s tech. let’s talk! contact @ samuelc1231@gmail.com

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