Marketing of the Harry Potter Brand

Marketing of the Harry Potter Brand


Harry Potter is a series of seven novels written by author J K Rowling describing the life and adventures of a young orphaned boy named Harry Potter and his two best friends named Ronald Weasley and Hermione Granger. The books illustrate the trivial yet important experiences that children go through in their personal and professional lives in the process of becoming an adult. Therefore, it identifies with each and every one of us with its myriad depiction of characters.

The first book was completed by the author in the early 1990's and then had a difficult time holding the interest of the publishers. When it was finally published in 1997, it became quite popular with the children. However, it was not until the third book was published that the series became the rage. What followed was an intriguing mix of marketing, merchandising strategies which gave birth to one of the most successful brands ever created. As of June 2008, the book series has sold more than 400 million copies and has been translated into 67 languages and the last four books have consecutively set records as the fastest-selling books in history.

Since 1998, when Nielsen began measuring book sales in the United Kingdom, the six Harry Potter books have sold more than 22.5 million copies in the UK alone. In the United States, the Harry Potter titles published after 2001 have sold more than 27.7 million copies (Nielson, 2007).

Today, the worth of the Harry Potter Brand is in excess of $15 Billion (Advertising Age, July 16 2007). While approximately $9 Billion is from the sale of books alone, the rest comes from activities like movies, licensing, merchandising, gaming, music and advertising.

What is fascinating to note amongst all this is the fact that more than 60% of the Harry Potter books sold in 2003 were bought for adults, not children, according to a research conducted by Book Marketing Ltd (BML). The figures also suggest that Harry Potter has not helped grow the children's books market. Instead, sales to children under 12 years old are reported to have fallen in each of the last three years. Even the story plot of the books has evolved with the passage of time and is no longer targeted at children. In fact, a lot of the content deals with real life issues being faced by adults and is contrast to the expectations of its earlier readers. On 28 March 2007, the cover art for the Bloomsbury Adult and Child versions and the Scholastic version were released. A survey done in the US in 2006 revealed that not only had parents of children read most of the Harry Potter series, they believed that reading the book had made their kids become better readers and had also helped them in school.

Through all these efforts the brand has been able to grow itself across categories. It has created a strong market for itself in the minds of consumers across social and cultural segments. There is a need to examine how a brand has totally repositioned itself in the middle of its life cycle and in doing so opened up exciting new opportunities for its growth.

The global market for children's books has seen a decline in the past few years. Book Publishers in the US are feeling the pinch of operating in a declining industry, with sales revenue declining over the last five years. Price is a key basis of competition, and major players operate on small margins and big economies of scale (IBIS World Industry Report, October 2009). However, the Harry Potter brand has continued to grow its readership and its revenues in the plight of such events.

Coming to the Indian market, the worth of the Indian publishing industry is estimated anywhere between 1.3 and 1.6 billion dollars and is the third largest in the world in English language publishing. India's demographic profile has created a lot of potential investors from multi-national corporations including publishers. But owing to its historical background, there is a lack of creativity, imagination and publishing skills in the domestic industry.

This research expects to understand the strategies that have been implemented by the author, publisher and marketers of The Harry Potter series to grow the brand across categories in other global markets. The study shall also try to assess the possibility of replicating the strategies in the Indian market which would result in further growth of the market.

Literature Review

Main Characteristics, Main Challenges, Main Perspectives for the Future (Menon, 2006)

This article, published in the Frankfurt Book Fair, talks about the current scenario of the Indian publishing industry. With special emphasis on the market for children's books, the article states that there is a dire need of expertise or experience in areas like editing, writing, illustrating and translating. The market for children's books in India is influenced by foreign authors and imported books. Mainstream publishing today caters to two kinds of markets -quality books for the more discriminating English-speaking urban elite and mediocre to poor quality books for the masses made up of India's vast and growing middle class. Both markets are huge and growing and will keep the children's book market thriving.

Children's publishing is being transformed from a neglected and unviable business into a consumerist one with huge market potential. When children's books are produced in response to a rapidly growing retail market comprising bookstore chains and lifestyle bookstores, the danger of children's books becoming packaged products is very real. The biggest challenge confronting committed children's book publishers caught in the dizzying tempo of globalization and technological change is whether we can continue to reach out with the kind of bookswe believe in.

The author talks about the popularity of the Hindu mythology among kids and also of well renowned brands like Harry Potter and the Lord of the Rings. She discusses ways to create a different genre for Indian brands in the market and targeting them towards Indian as well as overseas markets. In the last few years, books from small publishers from India that have won international acclaim reject the overtly slick and glossy ‘international look'. They reflect the cultural experiences of the marginalized and strike a universal chord.

Children's Writing in India- Find Your Niche (Prabhakar, 2009)

The blog gives an overview of the trends in the children's book market in India. While earlier the market was dominated by foreign authors and a few Indian book legends like Amar Chitra Katha, Tinkle, Champak etc. now there has been an influx of Indian authors and multinational publishing houses bent on widening the scope of the market.

The infrastructural hurdles being faced by the Indian market are severe and range from having a large non-literate society to a dearth in quality authors and publishers. There is a also a dearth of investment in community libraries, school libraries and specialized book shops which limit the accessibility of good books to young readers. The market for children's books can be divided grossly into good quality books for the urban English speaking elite and mediocre books for the growing middle class.

Now, as there has been a relative slow down in the developed economies where book are concerned, newer markets like India are seeing a burst of development and investment from international brands like Disney and Scholastic. This has provided incentive to Indian authors as well as publishing houses to meet competition and provide quality children's literature at affordable prices. This will result in higher standards & more creativity, a very welcome change thereby opening up opportunities for new writers & illustrators.

Prabhakar has also mentioned the success of the Harry Potter brand when it comes to the genres of fantasy fiction. While talking about the target group of preteens, teens and young adults, the writer explores the styles of writing and the story plot which stimulate these readers as well as the genres which find favor with their parents.

Reading Habits of School going children: Some Observations (Shukla & Bhardwaj, 2006)

A survey done on students of Kendriya Vidyalaya detailed the trends in the reading pattern of children across different age groups. The paper explores the purpose, frequency and tastes and preference of students in these schools. What emerged strongly from this study was the fact that by the age of nine, boys and girls have significantly tastes; girls will still read fairy tales while many boys have rejected them. Both boys and girls of ten to eleven like adventure stories involving group activity but boys show a preference for wider and rougher adventure. Girls like store set against a family background which deals personal relationships and reflect their need to love and be loved. By the age of twelve girls are interested in romance about girls slightly older than themselves, while boys like science fiction, mysteries and facts.

The problem is becoming more acute to look at fiction for this age group (9-12) in terms of convenient categories i.e. Fantasy, Adventure, Dom6stic, Adventure stores new usually have some elements of domestic features and growth, domestic features and growth, domestic stories unfolds in a way that makes every-day life seem exiting and fantasy stories usually involve both adventure and domestic elements

Marketing to Children: a planning framework (Sharma & Dasgupta, Young Consumers, VOL. 10 NO. 3 2009)

This paper seeks to identify the focus areas for marketing strategies targeting children. It seeks to help marketers tailor their strategies to create maximum impact in the children's segment. The paper researches the growing purchasing power of the children and the relationships between parents and their children when it comes to making purchase decisions.

According to the authors, upbringing has become more liberal and families have become ‘‘negotiation families'' (Du Bois-Reymond et al., 2001), where influence may travel in either direction between parent and child (Bridges and Briesch, 2006) and parents have become more accepting of children's preferences (John, 1999). As the extent of children's influence increases, children are becoming a part of most marketers' target audience even if they are not part of the target market”.

Depending on the degree of interest and the level of influence children have for different product categories, three distinct zones of influence have been defined by the authors. Marketing strategies would differ on the basis of these zones:

* Preference zone are those in which parents are the initiators, decision makers and purchasers but they may take into account the preferences of the child

* Pester zone is where the parents are the decision makers and purchasers but children have very strong influencing power. Bargaining and persuasion are employed as children grow older, and demands for products turn into discussions and compromises between parents and children (Rust, 1993; Palan and Wilkes, 1997). In this zone, marketers definitely need to address children through some marketing activities either independent to or in conjunction with activities targeted at parents. Marketing activities targeted at parents will aim to create some level of awareness, and if possible, liking, for the brand. Harry Potter is one example where the ability of the brand (a children's book), to create excitement among both children and parents the world over, was a critical reason for its success.

* The purchase zone is where parents may be the purchasers while children are the decision makers or co-decision makers. In product categories where children are co-decision makers, marketers need to cover both parents and children through their marketing programs. Focus should be to provide information and highlight the value proposition as well as create excitement around their brand.

Harry Potter: A link to the fantasy genre (Kotarba, 2009 )

The above article discusses the success of the Harry Potter series in the global markets and also looks at the impact of the success of Harry Potter on the entire book market. According to Weiner, ““The Potter books have made children's literature more visible, the market more receptive to hardcover editions of new children's fiction and reviewers more willing to tackle juvenile titles in their columns.”.

Weinberg goes on to state that the strangest truth of the Harry Potter phenomenon is the way it has benefited reluctant adult readers. Scholastic has released statistics to support their claim that fifty percent of the books in the series have been bought by readers thirty-five years or older. Brenda Bowen, executive vice president and publisher of Simon & Schuster Children's publishing and twenty-one year publishing veteran confirms this surprising information. She explains that the surge in adult consumption of children's books reflects a hunger for the plot-heavy escapism that they offer. The paper talks about how the adult readers have also latched on to the book and have been drawn by the storytelling capabilities.

Online media and internet have been credited with a lot of success for expanding the reach of the brand. The creation of hype during the launch of the series has been accredited to online media. However, the storyline of the series and the writing skills of the author is what are being appreciated the most.

Harry Potter: The $15 Billion Man (Advertising Age, 2007, July 16)

This article gives a detailed overview of all the segments that Harry Potter brand has targeted. It provides basic data and statistics and estimates the total worth of the Harry potter brand which I currently in excess of $15 Billion. Book selling is the most major source of income for the publishers with over 320 million copies already in print. According to the listed figures, Harry represents 9% of Scholastic sales every year in which one of his books is published.

After book selling, the most major source of income is the movies which has grossed somewhere around $4.4 Billion all around. Harry Potter movies have been shown more than 366 times since 2002 on ABC, Disney, ABC Family, HBO and Cinemax. That's an average of six times a month. Hence, the advertisement revenue earnings have gone up to around $500 million. DVD sales and advertising revenues have grossed up another $1.5 Billion till now.

This article gives a summary of the diverse portfolio of the brand and the various industries it has indulged in.

The Schoslatic “There soon will be 7” Marketing Plan

This article by Scholastic Publication lists down the activities of the publishers carried out before the release of the “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows”, the final book of the series. A record breaking first printing of 12 million copies in the US was announced accompanied by a multi-million dollar advertising campaign. Following are the details of the marketing plan:

* 7 Questions of Harry Potter campaign which released one question every two weeks for fans to debate on. These questions were highly debated through online media, book clubs and were answered by JK Rowling in the seventh book

* Knight Bus National Tour was organized on June 2nd, seven weeks prior to the release of the book. The bus started from New York and travelled across 40 libraries in 10 major metropolitan cities and fans were given a guided tour and asked to share their thoughts on videos.

* Retail promotions included THERE WILL SOON BE 7 table top easel backs and millions of collectible bookmarks distributed to retail accounts and libraries throughout the country

· Book Release Party Finder - this online guide will list various retailers' midnight parties nationwide searchable by zip code, city and state so fans can find a celebratory party to attend in their community.

Definition of Research Problem

Understanding the reading habits of teenagers in India, availability of various categories of literature and how certain categories of literature can be expanded the way Harry Potter did in the global context.

Research Objectives

The study also involves a feel of the Indian market and since there is paucity of data related to the Indian publishing industry and the book market, the research methodology will involve a quantitative analysis of data collected data through in depth interviews with publishers and retailers of bookstores.

The research would also involve a study of consumer profiling and behavior done through analysis of data collected through structured questionnaires and in depth interviews. Understanding the potential of expanding various genres would also be included in the study.

A part of the research is to find out the strategies implemented for the success of the Harry Potter brand in other markets. The information required would include industry figures pertaining to the growth of the brand in these markets, trends in the genre of fantasy fiction books in Indian as well as overseas markets as well as consumer profiling and consumer responses toward the Harry Potter brand.

Research Methodology

Phase 1: Secondary research would be conducted to

a. Understand the trends and dynamics of the Indian book market especially the children's category

b. Gathering information related to the strategies used by publishers to market the Harry Potter series in global markets (primarily US and UK)

Phase 2: Primary research will be undertaken for:

a. customer profiling of Indian English speaking readers in the age group of 7-17 and belonging to SEC A+, A and B.

a. Understanding the tastes and preferences of the teenage readers when it comes to children's literature through content analysis of Indian Vs International texts and mapping the reading pattern of Indian teen defined through secondary research

Method of data collection: In depth interviews- questionnaire administered personally

Sampling Plan: Data would be collected from teenage readers through personally administered questionnaires and in depth interviews conducted across metropolitan cities for easy availability of respondents.

Expected Contribution

The research hopes to make valuable contributions in the following areas:

* An overview of the children's book category in the Indian publishing market and a comprehensive understanding the current trends with regards to reading patterns and popular genres.

* Predicting future trends in the children's category of the Indian book market and developing a model for the successful launch of future brands.

* Understand the strategies involved in the successful launch of a brand across different categories and consumer segments across global markets


· Brown S. (2002) Harry Potter and the Marketing Mystery: A Review and Critical Assessment of the Harry Potter Books, University of Ulster

* Hannabuss S. (2004) Dr Seuss: American Icon [Review of the book Dr Seuss: The American Icon by Philip Nel]

* Hannabuss S. (2008) Book Review: A Guide to the Harry Potter Novels [Review of the book A Guide to the Harry Potter Novels]

· Thakur S. (2008) Hindi children's books losing out to glossy English, The Indian

* High Growth Forecasted for the Children's Publishing Market (2009, August), Business Wire

* Dammler & Middelmann, “I want the one with Harry Potter on it”, (2002, Jan-Mar), Advertising & Marketing to Children

* Brown & Patterson (2009) “Never tickle a sleeping dragon: how readers devour Harry Potter”, Marketing Intelligence & Planning Vol. 27 No. 6

* Hughe Hassell & Rodge (2007), the leisure reading habits of urban adolescents, Journal of Adolescent and Adult Literacy

* Brown S. (2002) Who moved my muggle? Harry Potter and the marketing imaginarium, Marketing Intelligence and Planning

* Nielson (2007) Harry Potter Charms the Entertainment Industry, Nielson Industry Report

* Lindstrom M (2004) Branding is no longer child's play, Journal of Consumer Marketing Volume 21 · Number 3 · [pp. 175-182]

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