8 Marketing Lessons from the All-Time Best-Selling Children’s Book
The fantasy series by J.K. Rowling about a boy wizard – Harry Potter – still continues to excite millions of ‘Potterheads’ around the globe. With Pottermania far from being over, fans anxiously await in serpentine queues to get their hands on the latest installations of the series. Meanwhile, others patiently wait for their acceptance letter from Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry.
What began as novel about a parallel universe of magic caught on in a big way with Harry Potter becoming an international sensation. The success of the series and brilliant marketing tactics resulted in seven books, eight movies, a theme park and theatrical production.
And, when you want something, all the universe conspires in helping you to achieve it.
“Sorting” of first year students at Hogwarts into different houses by the Sorting Hat is a moment packed with anticipation. When the hat is placed on a students’ head, they are placed within one of the school’s four houses – Gryffindor, Slytherin, Hufflepuff and Ravenclaw. Although the hat’s decision is final, the students’ preference is taken into consideration.
Know what you want. Decide on your target audience and work towards reaching that goal. Author Paulo Coelho sums it up perfectly in his bestseller, The Alchemist — “And, when you want something, all the universe conspires in helping you to achieve it.”
2. Know what your target audience wants
Before the series most beloved characters (twin brothers Fred and George Weasley) dropped out of school, they began their own startup. The success of Weasley’s Wizard Wheezes, a joke shop, was the result of excellent marketing strategy — distributing their products throughout Hogwarts and relying on their network of friends for word-of-mouth a.k.a. social proof.
Most of their products like, Love Potions, Dungbombs, Self Writing Quills, and Skiving Snackbox catered to their target audience – the students (children, teenagers, and young adults) of Hogwarts. Duly, their quirky and inventive names were relevant to their product line (U-No-Poo, a pun on You-Know-Who) caught the attention of students.
Knowing AND understanding what your target audience wants – along with a bit of innovation – will be your guideline in selecting your marketing strategy.
3. Build a strong team
Teamwork is a reoccurring theme throughout the Harry Potter series, as the characters work to overcome personal challenges. Be it the trio of Harry, Hermione (Granger) and Ron (Weasley) or Headmaster Dumbledore’s Army, every team has a common goal. Although no team members are alike, each member brings their own individual strengths and weaknesses in the battle for the wizarding world — The series climax resulted in the entire wizarding world joining forces to defeat the series villain, Lord Voldemort.
Build a marketing team where you can openly communicate your strengths and weaknesses in order to become better as individuals while becoming an even stronger team.
4. Find your sweet spot
Neville Longbottom, the series’ endearingly clumsy, meek, and goofball Gryffindorian, in all his mild nature never strayed from acts of bravery. He wasn’t as academically sound as his classmates, never faring well in most of the Hogwarts curriculum but with one exception – Neville had great passion for ‘Herbalogy’ and possessed immense talent in the subject. As the series progressed he earned the score of ‘Outstanding’ on his O.W.L. Herbalogy exams, ultimately becoming Hogwarts’ Herbalogy professor!
Play to your strengths in order to find your sweet spot. If a particular discipline is not within your forte, take a different approach or switch things up in order to achieve your desired result.
5. Utilize your network
During the series, Harry Potter entered Hogwarts most challenging scholastic competition, the ‘Triwizard tournament’ – and with zero knowledge of the event at that. But with help from his friends (Neville, Cedric Diggory, and Mad-Eye-Moody) he is able to complete each level of the wizarding competition with flying colors.
Utilize your network of colleagues, business partners, and people that will advocate on your behalf to assist you in completing your challenges. Influencers and business contacts are great resources to help promote your brand and spread the word about your product/service.
6. Don’t put all your eggs in one basket
The series villain, Lord Voldemort, creates seven ‘horcrux‘ – think preferred specimen jars – to achieve immortality. Transferring his soul into seven trinkets, it was impossible to truly defeat him until each object had been destroyed.
Marketers can take a cue from the ‘Dark Lord’, and spread their eggs into different baskets. Don’t discredit email marketing and rely solely on social media or vice versa. Likewise, make sure you’re monitoring your marketing accounts to ensure they remain active.
7. Don’t dwell on the past
‘Time-turners’ are fictional devices that lend the characters of Harry Potter the ability to time travel. Owning a time-turner and using it to fix past events can be tempting, but comes with severe consequences.
Learn from your mistakes, but remember there is no perfect strategy and there are no time-turners in the real world. It’s of the utmost importance to make sure you’re implement a marketing strategy to the best of your ability: reviewing the data from your PPC campaign, performing A/B testing, and monitoring your social networks are just a few of the ways to ensure you won’t make the same mistakes twice.
Don’t wait to start new product launches or offerings. Perfections is a dish that is never finished and never filling. Get the product to the market and make small adjustments as necessary. – Edward Tillman, The Sales Rhino
8. A little luck goes a long way.
With the help of Felix Felicis a.k.a. ‘liquid luck’, Harry Potter was able learn the secret of the horcrux. At two pivotal moments in the series it seemed his meticulous plans would certainly fail, he suffered a stroke of luck via the elixir.
“Luck is when preparation meets opportunity” – Seneca the Younger, Roman Stoic philosopher
For marketers, there are times when despite our best efforts we still need a stroke of luck, but luck isn’t leaving your goals up to fate. Just as Harry Potter’s story-line was written with him as the victor, construct your own narrative with a contingency plan.
Whether you’re a fan of the fictional wizard wunderkind or not, he’s schooled us all in a lesson on building and marketing a brand.