People are exhilarated. Many have waited outside cinemas, bookshops and theatres on many separate occasions for the release of Harry Potter movies, books or shows. Fans wear Hogwarts robes. Some state they will do anything for Harry. One even has several tattoos of Harry all over her arms and body.
Claudia Jaulimsing is a Harry Potter fan, and since being taken to see her first Potter’s movie “Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone”, she has watched and read all the harry potter movies and books at least 20 times. She is exuberant now as she has been saving enough for her dream holiday at The Wizarding World of Harry Potter theme park in Florida.
She is waiting for the release of the movie with her friend Grace, a 38 year old bank manager who also has two tattoos (her family thinks she has only one).
Fans are all obsessed with the imaginary world that Rowling has created with movies, books, theatre, merchandise and theme parks. This is a parallel world worth over $25bn since the first story was published over 22 years ago. And how much more will this empire grow over the next 20 years?
Bloomsbury, one of Britain’s leading publishers, bought the book for only £2,500. Since the last book was published 12 years ago, Harry Potter is still their biggest seller. It has been translated into 79 different languages and has sold more than 450 m copies.
So why does the world of harry potter have so much appeal? Rowling’s world is about magic, but not only that, it is a world of magic with its own language. The boarding schools and castles are characteristically British, making this iconic world just as great an export as the Beatles or James Bond. Jonathan Shalit, entertainment manager, says, “The best way to be successful in the US is to be British”.
Marketers pay a lot of attention to detail. They replicate the obsession of a kid that is looking at their dream toy in the window display of a shop. An example of this is when harry visits Dragon Alley for the first time and says “I wished he had about eight more eyes . . . Several boys of about Harry’s age had their noses pressed against a window with broomsticks in it. ‘Look,’ Harry heard one of them say, ‘the new Nimbus Two Thousand — fastest ever’.”
The magical elements in the book have become realised in everyday life. On ‘Platform 9¾’at Kings Cross Station it’s busy even on rainy days. Visitors can buy Chocolate Frogs, Bertie Botts Every Flavour Beans, Fizzing Whizbees and branded broomsticks. Fans represent many different nationalities; even the French make it their first stop after alighting from the Paris Eurostar.
Rowling probably did not write her stories with an eye to marketing products, but this has happened as a result of her success. After the first book was written, Bloomsbury insisted on follow-ups, but JR Rowling urged caution. Today, after all the 8 movies and 7 books, there are 3 harry potter parks and a Warner Bros studio. This year she was valued £650 million, however, the author has donated large amounts of money to charities.
It’s certainly true that marketing has had an effect on generating revenue, but the main source of success was to create products, at the right time for the right people. Storytelling was always more important than business, but the marketing also contributed significantly.
People also realised that harry potter was not just for kids. Adults were also attracted by the way the books were written as the plots had similar construction to fiction they read when they were young. The Publisher also realised this and created books with hard covers, signatures and real photographs instead of drawings.
All this success has come at a price, however. Eventually, Rowling became tired of writing the books, attending press launches, reading in shopping centres and more. She even said she was kicked out of the first house she bought because of the number of journalists and fans coming to her home and knocking on the door.
Harry potter has become one of the most successful fictional universes in history, surpassing that of Star Wars and second only to the world of Marvel.
Many other books and series have tried to replicate Rowling’s success; however none so far have matched up. The Hunger Games has attracted many viewers and readers, but without much interest in their merchandising. The lord of the rings has also had great success over the decades, but its over-complicated story meant it could only be sold mainly to adults, who tend not to be interested in merchandising.