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Susan Gunelius: Exploring the Harry Potter Phenomenon

by Mary Emma Allen on August 19th, 2008


The Harry Potter Phenomenon has captured young and older in its web with books, movies, and paraphernalia.  What has made these books so popular that this became a brand in itself and skyrocketed to fame?

Susan Gunelius explores this in her book, Harry Potter - The Story of a Global Business Phenomenon.

I interviewed Susan, since I’ve been fascinated by the marketing strategy that created such success, and learned how she became involved in researching this topic.  (Also, as you read Susan’s answers, you’ll discover how blogging and social media can activate one’s business.  And yours doesn’t have to be a Harry Potter brand.)

Mea - Susan, how did you get the idea for your book?

Susan -  The publisher, Palgrave Macmillan, actually contacted me with the idea for the book asking if I would write it.  Palgrave Macmillan found me through a blog post I wrote about the Harry Potter brand on my b5media blog, BrandCurve.

Mea - Do you think the Harry Potter brand phenomenon was mainly due to marketing.  Or was there a market of readers ready to be reached?  Was this the right book at the right time?

Susan - I think all three of the factors you mention were in play when the first Harry Potter book was released.  First, it was a good story.  Second, J.K. Rowling’s story fueled the publicity buzz.    Third, the social web was kicking into high gear  and pushed the buzz  to a previously unheard of level.   The series  included all the factors the marketing team needed to leverage in order to sustain the buzz over the course of the brand’s lifecycle.  That’s all I’ll say though.  For the full story, you’ll have to read my book :)

Mea - Are you an avid Harry Potter reader?  Or are you mainly interested in the global marketing phenomenon?

Susan - I am a Harry Potter fan, which is something I talk about in the preface of my book.  Harry Potter - The Story of a Global Business Phenomenon isn’t a story about being a Harry Potter fan though.  It’s a tool for marketers and business people to learn from and a case study in effective marketing and branding.   It’s written so it makes sense even if you never picked up a Harry Potter book.

Mea - After your research, did you find one marketing/promotional technique that was more effective than the rest?

Susan - In my opinion, the most the most interesting part of the success of the marketing behind Harry Potter was the power of the social web that catapulted it first to a cult brand and later to a global phenomenon.  For any marketer who questions the need for investing resources into marketing via the social web, this book will teach them that doing so is a social necessity. 

The world of marketing has changed. Harry Potter is the perfect example of that.  Marketers need to change their business models or risk being left behind.

Mea - What do you see as the future for the Harry Potter phenomenon?

Susan - With more movies and a theme park set to open in the next couple of years,  the Harry Potter phenomenon will stay in the forefront of consumers’ minds for some time.  As consumers have witnessed with brands like Star Trek, the fans will keep it alive,  and their demand for more of the brand  will allow for additional brand extensions  to pop  up for a long time.

Mea - Can another book attain the same success as Harry Potter?

Susan - That’s a question I specifically ask and answer in  Harry Potter - The Story of a Global Business Phenomenon.  I outline the strategy brands would have to follow to have a chance of attaining the same level of success as Harry Potter.  I believe it can be done, but it remains to be seen if it will actually happen.

Doesn’t this make you want to read the book and discover the power of marketing utilizing the web and establishing your own brand?

Susan’s book makes it’s American debut today, August 19!  It’s been available in Great Britain and on Amazon.com.
 (Susan also has a new book coming out soon, Google Blogger for Dummies  Another of Susan’s books is Kickass Copywriting in 10 Easy Steps.)

(Amazon image; click for details)

(c)2008 Mary Emma Allen

Tags: Brand Curve, Harry Potter, Harry Potter brand, Harry Potter marketing strategy, Harry Potter phenomenon, , , , , , ,

POSTED IN: Books, Business Blogging, Business Branding, Business Ideas, Interviews, Marketing, Promotion, Social Media, Writing & Publishing

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