This week our guest expert is Susan Gunelius, author of Harry Potter: The Story of a Global Business Phenomenon.
1. In your new book you analyze the Harry Potter phenomenon. What part did the personal story of J.K. Rowling play in the success of the book?
J.K. Rowling’s personal story actually played a big part in the initial success of the Harry Potter brand.Â Her rags-to-riches Cinderella story was a goldmine for the press who ate it up and spit it back out to anyone who would listen.Â As the brand grew, more and more people became intrigued by the first-time author/poverty-stricken single mother who wrote a book that so many people were talking about, thus generating more word of mouth marketing and more sales, but without that initial attention from the press, the brand may not have taken off the way it did.Â We’ll never know.
I didn’t realize when I first started researching Harry Potter that the online buzz played such a significant role in the success of the brand.Â Blogs were just starting out when Harry Potter began picking up steam.Â At a time when most companies and brands were trying to crush that type of citizen journalism, J.K. Rowling and Scholastic embraced it.Â Of course, their first reaction was to bring lawsuits against bloggers and fan sites, but they quickly realized that the power of what would eventually come to be known as the social web was too big to turn their backs on.Â By letting the online conversation grow and flourish, the brand did, too.Â In other words, by letting consumers experience the brands in their own ways, talk about it, and live it, the brand thrived beyond anyone’s expectations.
3. Is there also a lesson about the unexpected benefits of blogging that you can share here?
This goes back to the power of the social web and the early recognition by J.K. Rowling and Scholastic of the power of the online buzz that played a big part in the ultimate success of the Harry Potter brand.Â Companies and brands are still not 100% supportive of bloggers, but they can hold an enormous amount of influence.Â The success of Harry Potter by way of a strong online buzz, fueled primarily by bloggers and fan sites, is evidence of that.
4. What is your take on the Motrin Moms controversy?
As the mother of 4-year old triplets, I can say without a doubt that I don’t carry my kids as a “fashion accessory” as that Motrin ad implied.Â With that said, I think the controversy is another example of the power of the social web wherein a vocal few can influence many (you know the old phrase, “the squeaky wheel gets the oil,” regardless of how right or wrong that is).Â It goes back to the old shampoo commercial from the 1970s, “and she told two friends, and she told two friends, and so on, and so on, and so on…,”Â The only difference is that today messages travel much faster, and influential bloggers, whose posts get syndicated, appear high in search rankings, etc., have the ability to reach a broad audience very quickly.Â Marketers have to be careful to be politically correct these days, to a point where it’s nearly impossible not to offend someone.Â It’s a challenge that’s far more difficult today with the existence of the social web than it was even a decade ago.
5. What is your favorite online marketing initiative right now?
The first one that popped into my mind is one that I just wrote a blog post on my company blog this week .Â It’s about the new JCPenney viral video, Beware of the Doghouse.Â The video and corresponding website were created to support the JCPenney in-store jewelry center.Â The video is funny and timely, and the interactive website is really amusing.
6. What did you learn as a marketer from the U.S. Presidential campaign?
Branding consistency and inclusive marketing are more important than ever.Â I wrote a post about that on my blog, too.
7. 3 Tips for Entrepreneurs in a recession?
To build business – keep networking (online and offline).Â To save money – ditch your website and replace it with a WordPress CMS site and use freelancers and open source applications.
8. One book in addition to Harry Potter: The Story of a Global Business Phenomenon that youâ€™d recommend?
My copywriting book, Kick-ass Copywriting in 10 Easy Steps.
9. One online resource you could not do without?
Google – I use it for so much – search, email, applications, Alerts, Reader, YouTube, AdSense, AdWords – you name it.
10. Your favorite brand for the month?
I’ve been on an Apple kick lately.Â It’s such a great example of relationship branding and societal branding.Â I even fell victim to Apple’s marketing messages and got a Mac a couple of months ago.Â Now, if only I could get an iPhone without AT&T as the carrier, but that’s another story, entirely.