Transition Harry Potter From Kid Lit Star to Global Phenom … Essay
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Harry Potter Marketing
The Harry Potter books became a global phenomenon, spawning a media empire that naturally included a hugely successful movie series. The marketing of the movies came at a point when the books were already hugely popular, and that popularity had extended well beyond the normal boundaries of kid lit. A media empire had been born, and the movies were the key to getting Harry Potter past the tipping point. Knowing that they had seven books with which to work, the marketing team working for Warner Brothers had the opportunity to make the Harry Potter brand one that would continue to earn money for decades, if the films were good enough and the brand development strong enough. Certainly, the product had to be good, and if it was there was tremendous opportunity for the brand (Field, 2015). This paper will outline the brand marketing for Harry Potter to analyze how it became as big as it did.
The development of the brand attributes begins with the creation of the stories themselves. The characters and world in which those characters live are at the heart of the brand attributes. When Harry Potter got to the movie marketing stage, it was simply a question of which brand attributes should be highlighted. As a fantasy story about child wizards, Harry Potter as a brand stands for the magic in the world, just beyond our perception. For adults, it is the magic of childhood, and for children it is the magic of imagination and endless possibilities. The marketing, of Harry Potter, therefore had to strike a balance between the need to promote the brand, fairly aggressively in some cases, and maintaining the magic. While JK Rowling had a back story that supported the magic attribute of the brand -- a struggling single mother who made good - Warner Brothers and the other major brand handlers do not share this attribute . In fact, during the earlier marketing phases, Warner Brothers actively pursued fan websites with cease and desist orders, something that could have quickly killed the brand (Gunelius, 2010).
Realizing this, Warner Brothers quickly abandoned the cease-and-desist strategy, and allowed the fans to create their own relationship with the brand (Gunelius, 2010). This is an essential component to the brand marketing. With a fiction series, one with many characters and multiple heroes, fans will become immersed in the world, relate to the characters and stories, and in that way each fan will create his or her own unique relationship with the brand. The ability to do that is essential to the brand experience. So another key brand attribute is that the consumer defines his or her own relationship with the brand. This is relatively uncommon -- marketers prefer to run the conversation -- but also immensely powerful.
The product has to live up to the brand in order for this strategy to succeed (Field, 2015). There is only so much marketers can do with a lousy product. Fortunately, Warner Brothers knew that the Harry Potter books were high quality, and wildly popular. Translating that to the movies and subsequent brand development was simply a matter of not botching the product. To that end, they spared no expense in getting the product right, and with created the basis for a product that lived up. In a book, readers are free to imagine what the world looks and feels like, so the studio needed to ensure a smooth transition into the movie world, where the visuals were imagined for the audience. Attention to detail there was essential, and the product lived up.
The Harry Potter film campaigns were not just about selling tickets to a movie. They were about selling the brand, so that not only would the movie series by successful but that the brand would have multi-generational pull, more or less in the way that the Star Wars brand has this sort of pull. So the objective was to transition the Harry Potter brand from "book series" to "global multimedia empire." If the branding/marketing of the films was successful, the other products would fall into place. The success or failure of this branding effort, therefore, was dependent on leveraging the films to build the brand. In essence, the studio had to view the film series as the tipping point, the point at which Harry Potter made the transition from kid lit phenomenon into the global consciousness. Gladwell highlighted the stickiness factor, and this is something that was a big part of this marketing campaign -- Harry Potter had to stick in the minds of all consumers. This would be done in the context of the dawning of the Internet age, something that had significant ramifications for the stickiness. Fan sites -- emblematic of the ability of the audience to define its own relationship with the brand -- were a means of making Harry Potter sticky, of creating the sort of emotional connection that would allow the brand attribute of magic, inherent good and imagination to resonate so strongly with people that the brand power will be retained for life.
The objective of the campaign was to build the stickiness of the Harry Potter brand, and to expose it to a wider audience. The books and movies were both examples of effective cross-marketing. The books had different covers for adult audiences and child audiences, and the movies were made in such a way that they would have universal appeal. But the message was also carefully controlled. Two elements in the marketing -- one intention and one unintentional -- highlight how the medium can be the message, and what that meant for the Harry Potter brand. The first is the decision to avoid fast food co-marketing, which is otherwise commonplace in children's entertainment. This decision separated Harry Potter -- it was not just another kid's movie series. Further, there is nothing less magical than industrial food production and the connotation of promoting childhood obesity. This decision distinguished the brand, and made the case Harry Potter was more 'pure', and stood for a fantasy throwback world, a vision that was entirely supported by the visuals in the movie, and the characters in the books (Aquino, 2011).
The other element was the controversy about witchcraft. When whack jobs start protesting your brand, especially when they indulge in delusion about what the brand is and isn't, that is a perfect opportunity to draw new people into the brand (Aquino, 2011). Such incidents receive a lot of coverage in the mainstream press, and that coverage attracts new people to be curious about the brand. In this case, there were already many mavens armed with a lot of information about Harry Potter, so anybody who was newly curious about the brand would easily be able acquire new information -- for example that the books and movies are very good. The newly curious, having only gained their exposure through mainstream media publicity, receive these positive reports from information gatekeepers and proceed to investigate for themselves.
Harry Potter is not necessarily competing directly against other media empires. For example, the Lord of the Rings movies were coming out at the same time as the Harry Potter movies, but consumption of these brands is not mutually exclusive. That said, one thing that Warner Brothers wanted to do with Harry Potter was to establish it as the number one childhood favourite. Allowing consumers to define their own relationship with the brand was an essential part of this process, but so was offering a consistently strong product and message. Being able to combine these two is difficult, but Harry Potter's branding did that. The marketing created interest in the product, and the product itself was strong enough to sustain that interest. From the first book to the last movie was a span of 14 years from 1997 to 2011, and that constant exposure was critical to overcoming the competition. Harry Potter's run lasted a full generation, something no other similar brand was able to do. Saturation marketing was critical to this -- a constant stream of rumours, release parties, and product allowed Harry Potter to remain in the consciousness of society over a prolonged period of time (Gunelius, 2010).
The competition, such as it was, was completely overwhelmed to the point where Harry Potter was quickly in a league of its own. That may seem cliche, but other powerful media brands delivered nowhere near the content, the brand value, and longevity that Harry Potter did in its peak run. Ultimately, Harry Potter competed for attention with LoTR, Pirates of the Caribbean and a few other movie series at the time, but the lack of mutual exclusivity means that consumers could reasonably embrace all three, and they simply had more time and opportunity to embrace Harry Potter, which is why it was so much more successful than the other brands.
Consistency is critical for brand development, especially for a global brand like Harry Potter. It is established that… [END OF PREVIEW]
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