By now, almost everybody in the civilised world would have wept sweet tears over the end of the Harry Potter movie franchise with the screening of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2. Considered the world's most bankable fantasy brand, with an estimated brand value of US$15 billion, Harry Potter has changed forever the image of children's fantasy books with its massive impact. With its unprecedented wave of success, the world of Harry Potter has left many wondering if such a feat could be repeated ever again.
With that question in mind, I picked up marketing author Susan Gunelius' book Harry Potter: The Story of a Global Business Phenomenon hoping to find answers to how a geeky boy wizard has changed the business world. Laced with prodigious facts on the history and evolution of the brand, the book chronicled how the brand evolved from a desperate effort by poverty-stricken single mother J.K. Rowling to the most well loved literary and cinematic phenomenon. In the process, Rowling herself has transformed into one of the most well respected and popular billionaire authors in publishing history.
So what are the secrets to the success of Hogwarth's most famous student? In Gunelius' own "Muggle-speak", they are:
Having a Good Product
Here, the longevity and breadth of the product depends on how a well a product can meet consumers' needs. Content is key. Harry Pottter's ingredients of a fallible hero, coming of age, good versus evil, likable characters, and elements of magic and suspense resulted in a winning formula.
Engaging the three Ss of customer loyalty (stability, sustainability and security), the Harry Potter series embraced a linear, chronological structure where each book picked up from where the previous one left off. With a central story arc with the same set of main characters, the books and movies engaged readers and viewers in the fates of these young wizards as they tackle adolescent issues while battling an ominous threat.
Word-of-Mouth Marketing and Online Buzz
According to the author, the advent of social media networks and online buzz triggered a huge Word-Of-Mouth (WOM) growth of the Harry Potter franchise beyond that of predecessors like C.S Lewis' The Chronicles of Narnia and J.R.R. Tolkien's The Lord of the Rings series. In Gunelius' definition, the five factors of successful WOM marketing in the Harry Potter saga are:
1) Start with a good product with a story to tell
2) Don't give it all away