Marketing Magic: Harry Potter * Trainee Wizard * Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. (Profile)

By Jardine, Alexandra | Marketing, November 15, 2001 | Go to article overview

Marketing Magic: Harry Potter * Trainee Wizard * Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. (Profile)


Jardine, Alexandra, Marketing


The subject of this week's profile is about to become a marketing phenomenon. He has it all: global fame, appeal to both adults and children, the undivided attention of the world's media, and command over the spending power of the world's biggest brands. Everyone wants a piece of Harry Potter.

Not bad for a bespectacled 11-year-old boy. But then, Potter has come a long way since he first appeared in a children's book by a then unknown author four years ago. In JK Rowling's fictional world, he's evolved from an unhappy orphan to a confident trainee wizard. And in the real world, he has become a billion-pound property.

When Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone opens on Friday, the film will have already sold several million pounds' worth of advance tickets. Warner Brothers, which owns the movie, merchandising and other media rights to the four books already written, hopes to generate record revenues: according to some reports, Potter's merchandising worth is [pounds sterling]lbn. This includes the flagship [pounds sterling]95m deal with Coca-Cola and a raft of other licensing deals. Among the brands backing Harry are Mars, producing confectionery based on the sweets in the book, and Lego, with the likes of the Lego Hogwarts Express.

Meanwhile, retailers are relying on sales of Hedwig the Owl plush toys and wizard hats to lift the Christmas gift market. And, commercial deals aside, the film is even boosting unrelated areas of business - opticians are reporting a boom as fans demand glasses similar to those of their hero.

Just what exactly is going on? Well, Marketing tried to get an official comment from Potter. But, like all megastars, he is closely guarded by his minders, in this case Warner Brothers. A call to Warner's UK marketing department about Harry was met by the guarded response that only Diane Nelson, Warner's senior vice-president of family entertainment and the Harry Potter 'brand guardian', is authorised to comment on him, and she was in Los Angeles.

This caution typifies the approach of Warner, which has handled the marketing of the film with extreme care, mindful of the dangers of over-hyping Harry. JK Rowling is said to have wielded a strong influence over all marketing deals to ensure they preserve the integrity of the books, and the film contains no product placement.

Even the Coke tie-up is discreet, focusing on a worthy literacy project, the Valued Youth initiative. For a brand such as Coke to pay so much for a deal that won't even see Harry appearing on its cans, this character has to be pretty unique.

So just what is the appeal of Potter? Aside from being a wizard, what magic does he possess, that the likes of Disney have recently failed to conjure up with its aggressively marketed children's characters? …

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