Tuesday, July 19, 2005

The Harry Potter marketing story

What kind of a marketing blog would this be if I didn't mention the Harry Potter phenomenon? Ok, so I have to admit, I haven't read one word of any of the books in the series yet, although I have enjoyed the movies. :) My colleagues have now "persuaded" me to read the series, or risk being left out of almost every office conversation, which is why I currently have books 1 and 2 in hand!

So, aside from my ignorance of the books' contents, I, like many others, have been intrigued by all of this frenzy over the latest Potter release. An article in the New York Daily News cites the high levels of secrecy surrounding the book and the debut parties as reasons for all the hype. Another news article from the UK features a marketing professor, Stephen Brown, who takes a deeper look at Potter's magic. He points to the creation of a Potter brand and the ability of story-telling to captivate the imaginations of consumers.

I particularly liked this last point about story telling. Brown states, "Businesses and brands have been crying out for clarity and emotional engagement. Nothing supplies these qualities better than stories. So, belatedly, marketing has been discovering the fundamental power of parable, myth and narrative." Libraries already have such great stories from their rich histories as cornerstones of democracy and community. I think it's a great idea to think about a narrative for our libraries, where they "fit" in the stories of universities and communities, and be ready to tell them whenever we can. The State Library of Iowa has a Telling the Library Story Toolkit that may help.

I believe that when we're marketing, we really are telling a story to patrons about how our services can enrich their lives and fit their needs. We just need to work on making that story a convincing and compelling one. A little magic and mystery couldn't hurt either. ;)


Monique Prince said...

The Harry Potter frenzy (to which I am a proud contributor), particularly as it relates to the book release parties at bookstores internationally, reminds me of the "library as place" issue I struggle with at times. Many of us notice "what do they have that we don't have" complex when it comes to comparing libraries to bookstores--and cafe's, attractive shelving (call number free), ample seating, and browser-friendly arrangements are all part of that. I wanted to get in on the Potter Party business at my university library but even if we had it cataloged and in stock, I have a feeling that violence would have erupted as, at 12:01 patrons vied to be the recipient of THE BOOK. What bookstores often seem to have is a limitless supply, as opposed to due dates. Speaking specifically to the issue of literary events in libraries--whether it be author appearances, book release parties, or something else--in what ways can libraries market themselves (and position themselves) as viable venues for entertaining events?

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