- Facebook's Messenger app introduced its first branded chat themes in an integration with "Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker." Messenger users can now decorate their messages with digital content from the movie, per an announcement shared with Mobile Marketer.
- The digital content includes augmented reality (AR) effects that put Messenger users into scenes from the movie as they make a video call, or while using the app's camera. They also can insert "Star Wars"-themed emojis, stickers and reactions into their chats.
- Messenger users can turn on the "Star Wars" chat theme after opening a message thread, and tapping on "settings." The "Star Wars" content is available in the "themes" menu. "Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker" will be released on Dec. 20.
Messenger's new branded chat themes is another way for marketers like Disney, which owns the "Star Wars" franchise, to engage smartphone users in an immersive brand experience. The "Star Wars" chat theme is also the latest sign that Facebook is expanding the platform into a channel for brand awareness campaigns. That move positions Messenger to compete more directly with Snapchat, which pioneered the idea of branded AR lenses that urge the viral sharing of ad creative among mobile users.
While the "Star Wars" branded chat theme is aimed at lifting awareness among a broad user base, marketers have run campaigns on Messenger to urge more direct interactions with customers. For example, Michael Kors last summer ran a campaign that urged Messenger users who follow the fashion brand to enter a sweepstakes by sharing information about a new fragrance with their contacts.
The "Star Wars" and Michael Kors campaigns illustrate how Messenger is evolving to resemble WeChat, China's most popular messaging app with more than 1.1 billion users. WeChat not only provides basic messaging, but also serves as a lifestyle hub by hosting "mini programs" for shopping, payments, travel booking, ride-hailing and gaming.
Facebook in its last quarterly conference call said it was rewriting Messenger from scratch to improve its speed and security. The company plans to make Messenger more central to consumers' social interactions, with features to bring together Stories, or temporary posts, from other apps into one place and to add video co-watching features, CEO Mark Zuckerberg said during the call.