How Harry Potter Became a Global Brand – Part Two

In Featured, Industry Insights, Katherine Sanderson by Amanda Valdovinos

– By Katherine Sanderson –

This is the fifth article in a six-part series (The first and second covered ‘Marvel’ and the third and fourth covered ‘Star Wars’). 

For each brand, the first article covers the corporate strategy that initially launched them, and the second covers how they expanded the brand, with marketing partnerships, consumer products, and themed entertainment.

This article is continued from How Harry Potter Became a Global Brand – Part One.

In an interview with the Guardian in 2012, Rowling was quoted as saying: “Once you’ve made a lot of money, people around you might be full of ideas about ways to make lots more money and might be disappointed that you don’t want to seize every opportunity to do so.” It has been a difficult task to ensure that the Harry Potter brand is not overreaching its limits, becoming too commercial or too diluted. Though some may argue that the Harry Potter brand has reached that point, it seems that despite the fact that it has been around for two decades, the brand has maintained its appeal.

As I said in my previous articles, there are four major areas of business that I believe every film franchise must conquer to become a global brand: 1. Corporate Strategy 2. Marketing Strategy + Partnerships 3. Consumer Products and 4. Themed Entertainment (i.e. Theme Parks).

In my first article about Harry Potter, we covered the early corporate strategy that made the Harry Potter books and films a success. In this article, we will cover how Harry Potter expanded as a brand using 2. Marketing Partnerships 3. Consumer Products 4. and Themed Entertainment.

Marketing Partnerships

Harry Potter is one of those brands that recognizes the principle that truly strong brands do not attempt to sell, but rather have a strong product with a strong relationship to their customers, so the product sells itself. Unlike Marvel and Star Wars, marketing partnerships were not central to the Harry Potter brand (as their fanbase was such a loyal one), but have become more important with the spin-off series Fantastic Beasts.

Coca-Cola was one of the only long-term global marketing partner of the original Harry Potter films, winning the chance for tie-ins back in 2001 with a bid of $150 million. But it was starkly different from most marketing partnerships. Coca-Cola products were not permitted to appear in the films, and Coca-Cola was prohibited from using any images from the Harry Potter books or movies in their promotions. They were allowed to use Harry Potter-related images on their products, which they featured on their packaging for Coca-Cola, Minute Maid and Hi-C products. Coca-Cola was also required to donate money to various community projects, such as a $150 million donation to the ‘Reading is Fundamental’ charity .

Fantastic Beasts has been more ambitious with its tie-ins, given that there is whole new set of characters, and the films cannot necessarily depend on the original fandom.  Google has been a major partner, signaling the new age of online advertising. Using Google’s voice assistant, fans with Android phones may speak Harry Potter spells like “Lumos,” (which turns on the phone’s flashlight) or “Silencio” (to disable the ringer and notifications). They also produced a Google Street View integration, which lets the films’ fans visit New York in 1926, as well as fictional locations such as the MACUSA (Magical Congress of the USA), the underground speakeasy “The Blind Pig”, and the even the apartment of Tina and Queenie Goldstein. Twitter also released sponsored stickers, with Pepsi as the launch marketing partner, depicting a scarf, a suitcase, a wand, and a coat, which could be used on Twitter and Snapchat. Leading up to the first Fantastic Beasts film, Amazon integrated five “spells” into its search engine, that would cover the screen in a magical effect before directing you to a landing page about the movie.

Consumer Products

In 2000, with the release of the first film, Warner Bros. Worldwide Consumer Products signed two seperate deals, one with Hasbro and one with Mattel. Hasbro was to create Harry Potter trading cards, role playing games, candy, and electronics, while Mattel would create other Harry Potter items, such as figures and board games. Other companies like EA and LEGO also purchased licensing rights to Harry Potter brand, but there were tight restraints on all licensees, as Rowling wanted to ensure that the market was not saturated with Harry Potter merchandise. By 2008, after a decade of existence, it was expected that there were only 400 official Harry Potter products on the market, which was an incredibly low number for a brand of their stature. Yet, as of 2017, Harry Potter-related consumer products have pulled in $6.3 billion in revenue, showing that the selectivity did not hamper sales.

With more Fantastic Beasts films to come, the innovation continues. But as said in previous articles, children today buy less toys and games than they did in the 1990s and 2000s, so there are a few strategic consumer products that can be expected by the end of the year. In February, JAKKS Pacific, a leading US toy manufacturer, partnered with Warner Bros Consumer Products to deliver a new collection called the Wizard Training Wand collection within the Wizarding World™ toy line. Each wand includes 11 different spells for kids to master, using active motion sensors to track movement throughout five different modes of play. They also introduced the Niffler Challenge Game, inspired by Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, which is a two-player game that allows each player to load up the Niffler with jewelry and coins until they spill onto the cases. Scholastic  has a multi-year global publishing deal to handle children’s books related to Fantastic Beasts, while HarperCollins handles the adult books. These will no doubt be strong additions to the assortment of consumer products already available, and will help maintain their strategy of limited consumer goods.

Themed Entertainment

By the late 2000s children who initially read Harry Potter books had grown up, and the question arose: how to bring these fans back to one of their favorite childhood brands? The answer lies in themed entertainment. Finally, fans were allowed to enter the world they had imagined in books and seen on screen. After the first Harry Potter-themed land opened in 2010, attendance at the Universal Studios Orlando jumped approximately 36% in its first year of operation. Over 1 million Butterbeers were sold within six months, and merchandise revenue jumped 41% for the year, as visitors purchased magic wands, Hogwarts robes, chocolate frogs and other Potter-themed souvenirs. With an estimated $500 million spent on each of their three Wizard Worlds, it seems that Universal Studios investment may be paying off.

The Wizarding World of Harry Potter began a new age of themed areas (since followed by ‘Pandora – The World of Avatar’ at Disney’s Animal Kingdom, and upcoming Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge lands at Disney parks). This was the first time that an entire area of a theme park was completely transformed, with an attention to detail and quality that rivaled an actual movie set. As early as 2003, there were rumours that either Disney or Universal were looking to get the rights to create a Harry Potter theme park, but an official partnership with Universal wasn’t announced until 2007. In 2010, Universal Studios Orlando opened the first Wizarding World of Harry Potter, a themed area with the magical architecture and landscaping that mirrored the movies. Similar themed areas opened at Universal Studios Japan in 2014 and Universal Studios Hollywood in 2016, respectively. At these lands, Butterbeer (a beverage consumed by the characters) is offered in five forms: frozen, ice cream, hot, regular and fudge. Wands purchased from Ollivander’s Wand Shop can be used to do “magic”, using sensors that connect the wands to corresponding objects throughout the area. There is even a Hogwarts train at Universal Studios Orlando, in which you can board at a Platform 9 ¾, that takes you between Hogsmeade and Diagon Alley, and a working post office which labels letters as from Hogsmeade.

For those not as interested in thrills, but rather are true fans of the films themselves, Warner Bros also offers an official studio tour called The Making of Harry Potter near London. There fans can explore authentic props, costumes, and sets from the film series. The main Warner Bros studio in Los Angeles also seasonally offers a Harry Potter + Fantastic Beasts exhibit on their studio tours, in which US fans can view real costumes and props from the films.

Conclusion

As we await the next four Fantastic Beasts films, we can be sure to see the further expansion of the Harry Potter brand in coming years, attracting new young fans to the magical world. But the key to their continued success will be their ability to continue to engage their aging fan population (i.e. the original fans) many of whom are in their 20s and 30s now. By maintaining the quality of their theme parks, releasing high-quality consumer products, and making strategic marketing partnerships, Harry Potter will no doubt continue to cast its magical spell upon the world!


About the Author

Katherine Sanderson currently resides in Los Angeles, CA. Originally from Colorado, she graduated with a BA in English from Santa Clara University in 2014, and is an alumna of the JPCatholic MBA program (Class of 2016). Her professional aspirations are in children/family entertainment, especially animation.

For more articles by Katherine, click here.