7/16/2005

Wild About Harry: Potter Fans Storm Book Stores, Get Lesson in Relevancy Fans of Harry Potter books began lining up early yesterday morning so they could be among the first to buy a copy of the midnight release of the latest novel about a boy wizard. I wasn't among them. At midnight I was already pre-sleeping in my chair, having dozed off watching yet another repeat of a Law and Order episode I had already seen three times. So I missed the worldwide party celebrating the arrival of a book. The PR that surrounds the release of each Harry Potter book is nothing short of ingenious. It includes midnight bookstore openings, trivia contests, costume contests, magic shows, essay contests in which the winners get to take a trip to Harry's homeland, and much, much more. The buzz starts weeks before each novel's release. By the time the book is ready for sale, readers around the world have worked themselves into a frenzy. The last time I got that excited was when I discovered Ghiardelli chocolate and caramel squares came in jumbo size packages at Costco. The successful rollout of the Harry Potter books offers a great lesson for us all. Strategy (the S in SPUD) is an essential element to remaining relevant. Author J.K. Rowling does her part by ensuring each novel offers something fresh and unexpected, but once she's done, the marketing and PR machine that takes over leaves no creativity stone unturned. They understand the importance of targeting Harry's fan base through multiple channels, building anticipation every step of the way. They realize that visuals are key to getting TV coverage; hence, they provide B-roll to TV stations of things as simple as the shipping of thousands of books to various bookstores around the world. Just a few years ago, a pallet of books on a forklift could never have commanded 90 seconds on the evening news! Are you missing opportunities to create excitement about your offering? Thinking strategically requires implementing new and different techniques that you may have never considered. Look at how organizations in industries very different from yours market their wares. A gimmick that works for the beverage industry (bold new packaging on an old product like flavored milk) can also work for the paper industry (which is why you can buy diapers with everything from superheroes to pastel prints). One thing is for sure: remaining relevant doesn't happen by accident. Strategy is king, so pretend you're Harry Potter and devise a way to magically transform your organization into a relevant one!

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