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  • Subject area(s): Marketing
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  • Published on: 14th September 2019
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The Hollywood film industry have a prevailing position in the market, with their film shown in over 150 countries around the world (Wasko, 2003). It is claimed that Hollywood is a "transnational industry" and that more than half of the revenue comes from overseas market. Above all it is interesting to analyse film franchises, that usually have a global success, which Filson and Havlicek (2018) defines as "movies consisting of at least two globally marketed films in a series of sequel, prequels and/or spinoffs". Warner bros was the first studio that embraced franchising, and they were indeed the producer of one of the "winning franchising" in the 21st century: Harry Potter (Balio, 2013). Indeed, after the release of the last movie the revenue of the franchise was valued 7.5 billion dollars, and it is interesting to notice that the majority of the revenue came from overseas market (Balio, 2013). In fact, as claimed by Gunelius (2008), the movies was attractive to people all over the world; for instance, the 5th movie earned the "biggest industry opening day" in Holland and Belgium, and the second place in Italy, France and Brazil. As a consequence, it is fair to claim that Harry Potter, that started with a series of books, has become over the year a global success. Consequently, a question rises spontaneously: how come that a book that was initially published with only 500 copies in UK, over the years become such a global success? In this essay it will be claim that there are two main factors that contributed to create this global success: first of all, the story itself, and secondly (and maybe more importantly) the marketing strategies used, especially in the promotion of the movies. In order to analyse this global success, the essay will present the story of the evolution of the Harry Potter brand over the years. It will start analysing the reasons why the story of the books was so appealing all over the world, with a focus of different strategies used to adapt it to different cultures. Later on, it will be analysed the transition from the books to the movie franchising, with a focus on the marketing strategies utilised to grow the brand into a global success.

When analysing the success of Harry Potter as a movie franchise, it is essential to go back to the origins of the brand firstly: the books. Indeed, as explained by (McDonald and Wasko, 2008), in marketing the movies, Harry Potter was considered as a brand, not just as a film. Consequently, the marketing campaign was based on both the books and the movies. As claimed by both Gunelius (2008) and Blake (2002), Harry Potter is first of all a good product. Above all because it is the classical story of good versus bad; the story of a child that grows up over the time and has the same experience as everyone else in regard to family and friendship relationship (Gunelius, 2008). Furthermore, there are some themes that were useful to attract more people: "love never dies" and strong relationship between the characters. Furthermore, it is claimed that Harry Potter is able to connect with the inner child existing inside every adult, and this is why it had such a huge success on older people as well (Gunelius, 2008). Consequently, it is interesting to notice that, even if the story was born as a child story, it became a book for both children and adults, and it was also able to be appreciate in different countries. So how were they able to reach this international success with juts the story? Some claims that this is because Harry Potter story present multicultural and international elements. For instance, while the 3 protagonists are English, there are other characters coming from different cultural background (such as, Dean Thomas who is a black origin guy and the brothers Padma and Parvati Patil with Asian origins). Furthermore, with the development of the story they start to experience the world outside the UK (When they attend the Quidditch World cup for instance), and they connect with people from all over the world (The Washington Post, 2014). Blake (2002) also agrees with the perspective that Hogwarts (the witchcraft school) represent the multicultural England, giving this one of the reason for the international appeal. Furthermore, he claims that the themes it deals with are also an important factor, because as he claims, "they present the anxiety in the political and cultural world of that time". Another important element to consider, is the Para social relationship. Indeed, as explained bay Schmid (2011), in the entertainment industries it is important that the protagonist is liked and appreciated by the audience. In the case of Harry Potter, he is claimed to be both sociable and individualist at the same time, and this is why it is liked by different kind of culture as well. Gunelius (2008), also believes that in order for a brand to be successful it has to connect emotionally with the consumers. This is what happened with Harry Potter: people connected with him and eventually they became loyal.

Nonetheless, it would be frivolous to believe that the only reason why Harry Potter became a global success was because of the story itself. Indeed, the marketing strategies used were able to implement the relevance that the brand had worldwide. First of all, it is important to discuss the marketing strategies from the origins of the brand, when the first book was published. Arthur Levine was the one that believed in harry Potter and he was able to obtain "the US publishing rights for Scholastics". From there the marketing strategy started. Indeed, the press talked about the book a lot prior to the publishing in the US, and they also created and emotional appeal by connecting the story of Harry Potter, with the personal one of the author J.K Rowling (a single mother in poverty), the story of two people that struggle at the beginning but eventually succeeded (Gunelius, 2008). From there, the Word of Mouth (WOM) started to take place, and this can be claimed to have been the most important marketing strategies in the promotion of the brand all over the world. Nonetheless, in order to promote Harry Potter internationally some adjustment had to be done and some barriers occurred. First of all, the translation in different languages (that could be related to both the books and the movies as well) was not an easy task. This was due both because Rowling used words and meaning closely related to the UK/European culture and also for the themes used. For instance, while it is normal for a child in Europe to see the association of a witch flying on a Broom, for a child in India this does not make sense (Nexon and Neumann, 2006). For this reason, some changes were made across different cultures. For example, while "Quidditch" was associated with soccer in UK, in the Chinese translation it was associated with Baseball instead (Nexon and Neumann, 2006). Always because of the translation problems, the titles of the books and movies, had some small changes in different countries. For instance, while the name of the 1st chapter in UK is "Harry Potter and the Philosopher's stone", in US it changed in "Harry Potter and the soccer stone" (Gunelius, 2008). Another adjustment made was about the cover. Not only they designed different covers according to whether the reader was a child or an adult (they believed that adults might be more comfortable carrying around a book with an adult cover rather than a children book), they also changed across different culture in order to be more appealing (Gunelius, 2008). Nonetheless, despite this cultural adjustment, critics were presented too, and these were mainly related to difference in culture. For instance, as explained by Gunelius (2008) and Brown and Patterson (2010), critics arose in US and in other countries as well, because it was claimed that the story was against religious belief and they promote witch craft towards children. Nonetheless, those critics rather than hurting the brand they actually helped it to grow, since WOM was implemented by those rumours and more and more people started being interested on it to see whether the claims were real or not.

Nonetheless, the books were only the beginning of the brand. Indeed, it was with the agreement between J.K Rowling and Warner Bros that the concept of Harry Potter as a brand started to appear. Furthermore, a great part of the audience became aware and interested in Harry Potter after the release of the movies (Gunelius, 2008). In 1999, when J.K. Rowling sold the rights of the books to Warner Bros, the idea was to create a movie franchising, meaning that Harry Potter would become a brand rather than just a movie (Balio, 2013). Essential in the success of the movies was that Rowling made an agreement with Warner bros in order to be part of the film making decision. In this way she had some control over the production of the films so that they could be as related as possible to the books. In this way the fans would not be disappointed by the movies (Gunelius, 2008). Another fundamental element of the success was Warner Bros itself. Indeed, it is part of the AOL time Warner company, one of the biggest entertainment company in the world (Wasko, 2003). It can be considered a "nation state", composed of smaller companies that have a pivotal role in the distribution process (such as music companies for the soundtrack, television channels such as CNN, and magazines such as People) (Wasko, 2003). Consequently, thanks to the great relevance the company has worldwide and thanks to the possibilities it offers to cross promotion and marketing strategies, reaching a global success was possible (Gunelius, 2008). The biggest budget in the film distribution process is the marketing tools in order to promote the film (Balio, 2013). In the case of Harry Potter, the most effective strategies were the implementation of WOM that was already happening thanks to the books. In order to implement it, they release pieces of information about the movie at different times, triggering interest and discussion among fans. Fundamental in this case was the perfect timing, indeed the release period is also the time of the rise of the internet (Gunelius, 2008). In fact, thanks to the rise of internet networks started to appear, website where people talked about the brand, and quite quickly it started to become a "Viral Buzz" (Gunelius, 2008). An important website that helped it was "Pottermore", that was created the same year of the release of the first film and it was a way to put fans in direct contact with the author and to create discussion about Harry Potter (Brummit, 2016). The website was also used to release the trailer of the movies, that helped increasing the WOM (Gunelius, 2008). Furthermore, thanks to the internet and the website, it was possible to create a network that connected people from all over the world. Indeed, more and more fan website started to rise. Even though at the beginning, Rowling and Warner Bros saw them as a treat to the brand, they eventually understood that they drove the attention of more and more people to the brand and increased the buzz by connecting people from all over the world (Gunelius, 2008).

Alongside the use of WOM, Warner Bros also started creating licensing agreement with companies such as Lego and Coca cola to increase the production of merchandising (Gunelius, 2008). As claimed by Balio (2013), merchandising is important to both increase the profit and awareness about the product. In the case of Harry Potter these were: toys, games, candy, dolls, video games etc. The video game alone was able to generate 1.5 billion in revenue. With the licensing agreement with Lego, they were able to produce a line just about Harry Potter which they claim to be one of the best seller, and most importantly they keep producing and selling it even though the movies saga is completed. Indeed, as also explained by Wasko (2003), such global success as Harry Potter are able to keep generating revenue through merchandise over the years, after the release of the last movie. It can be claimed, that also these agreement with such international companies such as Lego and coca cola, helped to spread the buzz worldwide. Other elements used to promote the brand worldwide was the use of premiere in different locations around the world, with the actors and the author (Gunelius, 2008). Plus, short after the release of the movies, the creation and distribution of DVD, VOD, cable television etc. were made, in order to bring the product in the home of the consumers all around the world. Of course, this did not happen without problems. Indeed, because of the different release date between English speaking countries and non-English speaking countries, piracy started to rise. As a consequence, in order to overcome the problem, they had to make compromises. For instance, in China, they changed the date of the release of DVD to a sooner date and decrease the price of them, in order to persuade people to buy it legally (Gunelius, 2008).

In conclusion, it was possible to see that there were 2 main factors that were responsible for the global success of Harry Potter. First of all, it was a good product, that with the story and themes used was able to attract people from all over the world. Nonetheless, good products alone cannot generate a global success without good distribution and marketing strategies. In the case of Harry Potter, the fact that Rowling was part of the film making decision and of the merchandising, plus the fact that the producer (Warner Bros) was dominant in the international market, helped the brand to expand over international borders. Nonetheless, it was possible to see that some barriers and problems occurred over the years. For instance, some adjustments were necessary in order for it to be more appealing to international marketing. Indeed, it has been presented how the translation slightly changed according to the culture, as well as the titles and the cover of the books. Furthermore, essential in the promotion of the brand was the WOM, that started with the books and has been implemented with the movies and the merchandising especially because of the rise of the internet that helped the process. Concluding, after this deep analysis it was possible to see how Harry Potter was able to become one of the biggest franchising in the 21st century.

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