The magic of media
Do you remember where you were when Dumbledore died?
While the late, great Hogwarts headmaster may have been a fictional character, his tragic death resonated with many as if it were a real-world blow. And I’m not just talking fan boys. In the 13 years since Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone was published – and the 10 years since it hit the big screen ─ Harry’s world and everyone in it have infiltrated (cue Voldemort metaphor) our collective consciousness.
Like just about every scene in the final episode, it all culminates in an exhilarating climax. Last weekend’s opening of Harry Potter and The Deathly Hallows – Part 2 laid waste to box office records, earning $168.6 million in the U.S. and Canada, and $307 million internationally.
“The 3-D component, plus the IMAX, plus it being the last Harry Potter, it was just this convergence of things that created this incredible record,” said Hollywood.com analyst Paul Dergarabedian.
Yes, yes, all that. Not to mention a massive global media surge.
Media has always been a huge component of the Harry Potter success saga, growing strength with each installation of the series. The first book, Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone, was published just as we were becoming truly aware of the PR potential of the internet.
Since then, the series has become a model for marketing. As a 2005 article in The Guardian said of Potter creator J.K. Rowling, “She has created Harry Potter using branding techniques and the books themselves are full of brilliantly invented brands, corporate strategies, advertising campaigns and every element of the marketing mix.”
In other words, serendipitous though it may be, becoming a worldwide phenomenon is no accident. If great PR is about telling a story, who better than a story-teller to harness its power?
Although Rowling has taken a small step back from the front lines, the Potter publicity machine now has a social media army at their disposal.
The official Harry Potter Facebook page has nearly 30 million likes ─ a number which increased by 100,000 per day in the week before the premiere. Facebook fans can screen trailers, access exclusive cast interviews, view images, or rent and view the first seven movies. There is also an app that allows film-goers to buy their tickets from the page.
On Twitter, @HarryPotterFilm featured live Tweeting from the premiere and more exclusive cast interviews. For those rooting for the black hats, the Dark Lord has his own (unofficial) account: @deathtomuggles.
The Harry Potter YouTube Channel features the expected line-up of trailers, premiere highlights, etc. But it also gives users real-time access to both the official Facebook and Twitter feeds, as well as those of the cast members and fan sites.
It all adds up to a level of user engagement that’s practically a license to print money.
And it all stands in stark contrast to the complete lack of media and computers within the series itself. How many times have we seen Hermione lugging around some dusty old tome and wanted to shout, “JUST GOOGLE IT!”? How different would things have been if only He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named checked in occasionally on foursquare?
While spells and wands certainly have their place, I think it’s time for the truth to come out: the internet and social media are Harry’s true patronus.