5 Top marketing tips by 'Harry Potter'

On the off-chance that you're tired of reading about "Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows", lets take a look at the factors that made the sale of this book such a huge succes (11 million copies in the first 24 hours!). What can you as a creative professional learn from this from a sales and marketing perspective? What elements of the marketing of the 'Harry Potter' series can you use in your own marketing? Here are five top tips to be learned from the series:

1 - Create a great product

Let's be honest: if "the Half-blood Prince" had been a bad book, the succes of "the Deathly Hallows" would have been a lot less. And if the final book itself hadn't been good, this would have spread like wildfire, seriously damaging sales. The first book in the series was released with little marketing effort. Because it was a great book, both for children and adults, it started the momentum. However, this momentum has been carefully guarded ever since and slowly worked into a phenomenon.

For you as a creative professional this means taking a good look at the product itself before you decide on what marketing methods to use. You might want a low-key launch and than try to build momentum (see tip nr. 3 on how to help building it). You can believe in your product all you like, but in the end the clients have to believe in it. It has to offer value to them.

2 - Make it a brand and guard it well

"Harry Potter" is not a character in a book. It is a brand. The films are the most obvious examples, but there are lots of other related products and there is even a theme park planned. In 2005 the Guardian estimated the total 'Harry Potter' franchise to have a brand value of £ 2.2 billion. Just imagine what that would be today. And J.K. Rowling watches it like a hawk...

As a creative or media professional, chances are you are a one-person-shop. This means you are the brand. And you should be aware of this! Did you define an image and a brand strategy? Check out this post to learn more, also Tom Peters has very useful advice too. Do you know what's being said or written about you? On the internet? Try setting up Google alerts for your personal and company name to get information on where your name pops up. Do you take active steps to guard,improve and capitalise on your brand?

3 - Involve the customers in your marketing

The rumours; the refusal by J.K. Rowling to confirm or deny any of them; the "security measures"; the legal threats; the pleas to not disclose the end. And of course the greatest question of them all: will Harry die? All of these served to keep the fanbase talking about the book and thus enhance the anticipation (to a frenzy in this case). The queues in front of bookstores were positive proof of the effectiveness of "consumer marketing": letting the clients do the marketing for you.

Also known as "viral marketing": allowing marketing to spread like a virus. It is not always possible to use viral marketing techniques, but if you're working on a project that has an appeal for a wider market this could be a good move. Sites like YouTube and MySpace can create (quite) some buzz. Trying to get mentioned on certain blogs, specific to your audience can help too. Having a brand strategy and knowing how to protect it is essential here, since once set in motion you can never know what will pop up. And even a corporate video for in-house use (like a training video) could use this to increase its effectiveness! By getting some key influencers in the company interested in and talking about your project it could achieve remarkable results. This will probably become even more important in the future. (More information on this effect on corporate video can be found here)

4 - Take advantage of the season

Most fantasy and fairy-tale books are published around the winter holiday season, so to publish it in the summer holidays means a lot less competition. Also, as other news is a bit low during this season, the media were glad to pick up any story relating to Harry Potter. This in turn fueled the viral marketing aspect, creating continuous attention for the book release.

As a creative professionals you often have little control of the release date, as this is often picked by other people. This is especially true if you're working on a commission. However, you can still use this in your preliminary talks as an item for them to consider. At the very least shows them you care about the project and thus helps build business relations. If you do have any control of this, consider: is there a specific time (or time frame) that you can take advantage of? See the next tip for more on this.

5 - Use momentum

Launching the book after the film was another great move in this case (even though it was originally planned otherwise). You know how films can make you long for more of the same atmosphere, more adventures in the same world. And presto: here's the most anticipated book in the series! Book and film working in tandem to enhance each other. If you saw the film, you want that book; and the other way around. Provided of course both are good (see tip 1).

Again, sometime there's little you can do about this, but some creativity here could do very well. How about proposing a "teaser-project" to be used a while before the eventual release? This could tie in very nicely with the viral aspect. Or are there other projects (perhaps even competing projects) planned that you could take advantage of? Be aware of what's happening around you, and be prepared to take advantage of these opportunities.

How about you?

There are many things you - as a creative or media professional - can learn about marketing from releases like those of the Harry Potter books. Learn to think lateral and find opportunities to enhance your brand in unlikely places! You can reply in the comments to let other people know about your experiences with this.

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