Beam me up: Lessons from Star Trek

I’m a huge fan of Star Trek. I first saw the original series on a black and white TV in the early 1980s when they first aired on Sunday morning DD. Since then, I’ve given everything in the Star Trek universe a try – I’ve watched and enjoyed all 7 seasons of ‘The Next Generation’, most of the movies, hated ‘Deep Space Nine’ and ‘Enterprise’ and liked some episodes of ‘Voyager’.

I think the rise and fall of the Star Trek franchise holds some useful lessons for marketeers:

1. Unsuccessful? Maybe you just haven’t found your audience/market yet.
The original run of Star Trek was cancelled after just three seasons. But it became a cult favourite when it was re-run on late night television – a channel that helped it to find an audience that was large enough to justify further investments in the franchise such as Star Trek – The Animated Series and the first Star Trek movie.

2. Successful but ageing? Hold on to the core premise but refresh everything else.
Star Trek – The Next Generation is set in the same fictional universe as the original series, but it takes place a hundred years later. This allowed the creators to bring in an all-new cast as well as bring the special effects up to modern standards.

3. How to make spin-offs or extensions successful.
Spin-off shows like Deep Space Nine or Voyager ran for seven seasons each. Both held on to the core bits of Star Trek – strong characters with interesting back-story, intelligent scripts and good crew chemistry – while pushing the boundaries of the universe in which they existed and telling new kinds of stories in that setting. The most recent show – Enterprise – was a failure. The best special effects can’t make up for weak characters and really bad scripts.

4. How long can it last? Until the 23rd Century.
Even the failure of the most recent Star Trek movie – Nemesis – and the cancellation of Enterprise don’t spell the end for the franchise. A new upcoming movie and a fan-created series testify to the thriving equity of Star Trek. Even a couple of duds can’t keep it down so long as the franchise owners learn the lessons from previous incarnations and spin-offs.
5. What about all those hi-tech gadgets?
Well, I’ve said before that science fiction is a big source of innovation and clam-shell cellphones have been mimicking Captain Kirk’s handheld Communicator for several years now. Here’s some more Trek Tech that scientists are actively working on:

It’s the 40th Anniversary of Star Trek. Beam across to StarTrek.Com for the celebrations!

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