I’m not a (big) Harry Potter fan but its engaging brand and its influence on pop culture have been giving an interesting sting on my marketing mind. The last installment of the series gave a pretty loud climax to fans and readers and to silent spectators as well. A long-lasting, if not perpetual, denouement is expected in this generation of muggles who are having a good time in a media-driven world. For the sake of leaving my foot print on this historical timeline, I decided to follow the fantasy and seek the incantation that made Harry Potter a successful brand.
“The magic begins” and “It all ends” illustrate the two ends of the segment of the successful franchise. Even if the story has a start and an end, fans argue that the magic will live on forever. It may exhibit a flair of drama or a tear-jerking spell but the truth lies on one of the core principles of muggle marketing: brand ownership.
Lev Grossman, writer and book critic, posed a question in his article “The Boy Who Lived Forever“:
Do characters belong to the person who created them? Or to the fans who love them so passionately that they spend their nights and weekends laboring to extend those characters’ lives, for free?
Grossman was writing about the cultural phenomenon called “fan fiction” but if you look at the bigger picture, the “fans” he illustrated may not just be limited to fan fiction writers and readers. His question may cover those fans who simply watch the the movies and daydream or curl in crying after finishing the series.
So, who owns the “brand”? Thomas Stewart, a Chief Marketing and Knowledge Officer of a global management consulting firm, has the answer in his article “Who Owns Your Brand.”
There’s a difference between “brand” and “branding.” You own your brand in a legal sense but in real life, it is owned by your customers and manifested in the attitudes they hold and the stories they tell. You can control branding–activities ranging from slogans to PR. But ultimately, you can only influence, not control, your brand.
So that’s it, the Harry Potter brand is owned by JK Rowling in theory but the fans own it in reality. The famous author is nice enough to allow fan fiction to prosper unlike other writers such as Anne Rice who doesn’t want her characters live a different plot. Fan Fiction gives the fan base the freedom to give an alternative reality or to fill the gaps in the story. This kind of liberation gives the brand continuity, legacy and, yes, immortality (without the use of horcruxes). Moreover, this gives the “consumers” a wide area for viral conversations that can happen in any medium. Ultimately, the consumers will still contribute to the brand’s gross income through watching the movies or buying their very own Hogwarts uniform.
JK Rowling, during the last movie’s premiere, said: “Hogwarts will always be there to welcome you home.“ She didn’t know that, afterall, Hogwarts contain the people who buy her books and watch the movies. Don’t worry, Ms Rowling, Hogwarts will always be here to welcome you home and buy you another home.