To-date, the Harry Potter movie franchise has generated more than $6 billion in combined worldwide box office sales. Think that's a lot? Well, it doesn’t include book sales, product licensing or any of the brand's myriad of other revenues.
The Potter powerhouse has steamed ahead at full throttle since the first book published in the U.K. in 1997 (in the U.S. in 1998), due in large part to its marketing strategy. So, for small-business owners, what can they learn from this unbelievable success when it comes to their own marketing?
While most small businesses won't achieve the astronomical level of success that the Harry Potter brand has, owners should start by providing a quality product or service that far exceeds customer expectations as the boy wizard does. No one knows that better than marketing communications expert Susan Gunelius, author of Harry Potter: The Story of a Global Business Phenomenon (Palgrave Macmillan, 2008). Here are three Harry Potter-inspired tips from Gunelius that small-business owners can apply to their own marketing plans:
1. Tug at their heart strings. Want your brand to be a phenomenon like boy wizard? Then creating a consistent emotional attachment with customers will be necessary. To do this, Gunelius suggests delivering on the "3 S's" of customer loyalty: Creating feelings of stability, sustainability and security.
"Without that kind of emotional involvement, your success will peak long before the phenomenon status comes into view," she says.
2. Get 'em talking. Once you get those first few customers engaged, the next step is to get them telling all their friends about your brand. How many people first learned about Harry Potter from friends and family members? We can only speculate but assume the numbers are mind-boggling.
Consider using social networking sites such as Twitter and Facebook to get the conversations started and begin building buzz online about your brand. "Fans always wanted more of the Harry Potter brand, and the Internet became a place where the Harry Potter community could socialize, network and experience the brand in their own ways," she says.
3. Keep them hungry. Always leave customers wanting more of your product or service. Gunelius says business owners can create cliffhangers like Harry Potter did by leaking pieces of information and holding promotional events and contests around the next product to launch.
After that, it's all about damage control. "Once customers become loyal to a brand and develop an emotional connection to it, it's critical that nothing is done to damage the brand or betray consumers' loyalties to it," Gunelius says.
What Hollywood film or other major brand have you found most inspiring in terms of marketing success? Tell us in the comments below.