If J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter never received his invitation to Hogwarts, his world—as well as ours—would be very different. Life, for some Potter fans, would be a lot less exciting and magical (no pun intended). We would never know the thrill of a Quidditch match or wonder what it might be like to fly on a Firebolt. We would not be able to imagine what the freaky animals in Hagrid’s “Care of Magical Creatures” class might have looked like.
Without Hogwarts, Harry Potter readers would not know Harry Potter, the Boy Who Lived; instead we would know Harry Potter, the Boy from under the Stairs. A boy, who would eventually grow up and choose a Muggle profession. In pondering this alternate story line, consider the possibility of Harry Potter, the Marketing Guru:
Harry Potter As A Marketing Guru
Harry never receives his letter to Hogwarts and spends his days locked in the space beneath the Dursley’s staircase; until he outgrows that space. From the space under the stairs, Harry eventually graduates to the attic, where he accidentally discovers his magical abilities. Upon the discovery, he begins using his magic to influence the decisions of others.
Harry “convinces” his cousin Dudley that he, Dudley, wants to live under the stairs in the Harry Suite. Next Harry turns his attention to his uncle and aunt, convincing them that they want to remodel their bedroom into a theater room/trampoline pit/sleeping area. Needless to say, it’s an expensive remodel. His uncle and aunt decided, upon completion of their remodel, that they would really be more comfortable in the garden shed, and they give the room to Harry.
Harry goes on to use his magic for questionable purposes until a hex backfires on him, and his face shows up on every £5 note in the entire UK. After some unpleasantness at the police station, and a meeting with some old dude in a night gown and pointy hat (Dumble-bumble or something like that), Harry decides to use his magic for good. He enrolls in Lancaster University, studies marketing, plays lacrosse, and falls in love with a beautiful redheaded girl named Ginny Weasley, who goes to a different University. Tweet This
Harry’s able to not only make good marks at Lancaster University but also attract the attention of some very prestigious advertising firms throughout the UK. It turns out Harry is a born marketing genius; he just has “something special.” It’s said that when Harry is involved in a marketing campaign, you can taste the food, feel like you really are on vacation, and feel the road beneath you as you speed through London in your new luxury sedan. It’s like magic. Harry is careful not to overdo the actual use of magic when working on a campaign though. Tweet This
Harry knows from sad experience that with great magic comes great responsibility, so he sets up some rules for himself:
Always Have a Strategy
In the words of Yogi Berra, “If you don’t know where you’re going, you may not get there.” Harry makes a very detailed and specific plan of action for every campaign he’s a part of. When he leaves things up to chance, Harry is much more likely to take the easy way out, using magic, and end up with a weaker marketing campaign. He makes sure that the campaign he is working on lines up with the strategic position of the company and its other products. Harry’s learned that if the marketing message is inconsistent with the company’s overall strategy that the campaign is unlikely to succeed.
You Cannot Afford to Lose a Single Customer
It would be so easy, and very tempting, for Harry to wave a wand and make sure that every customer loves his company no matter what. Harry has learned, however, that no gimmick, unrealistic promise, or celebrity endorsement can take the place of good customer service. Harry’s learning that promising more than he can deliver doesn’t impress customers and is more likely to drive them away.
He always makes sure that the support structure for his campaigns already exists, or is well under way, before making any kind of promise. Harry is also careful to coordinate with a business’s different departments that would be affected by each campaign. He has learned that launching a new campaign, and not informing the people who are actually face to face with the customers, can lead to disastrous results.
Don’t Expect Customers to Simply Come to You
Kevin Costner’s statement “If you build it, they will come…” is only true in the movies. In advertising, Harry learns that the opposite is true: you cannot expect customers to come to you—you have to go to them. You have to find out where your target audience is (internet, television, radio, print, etc.) and meet them on “their turf.” Place your ads using the medium most likely to reach your customers, in a way that will be meaningful to them.
Many advertisers, who have really good ideas, fail to attract customers because they refuse to “speak their language” when trying to reach them. No matter how flashy your campaign, or which celebrity you have endorsing your product, if you are not getting the advertisement in front of your customers, then none of the flash will matter.
Under Promise and Over Deliver
Harry knows that being honest in advertising is more important than almost anything else. Early into his marketing career, Harry fell into the same trap that many marketers do: overpromising. It is very tempting, when you have a great product, to really talk up your product. You tell your customer all of the things that it will definitely do and even things that it should do; but the customer hears it all as promises. When that happens, customers end up expecting your product to always do what you said it will definitely do and should do both as guarantees—and that is a recipe for a lot of upset customers.
In our imaginary scenario where Harry Potter is a magical marketer, he learns to take great pride in getting results with hard work. Instead of expecting his natural talents, his magic, to bring him fast success, Harry finds success by learning from his mistakes and building strong marketing strategies.
Fortunately we do not need to imagine a world in which Rowling’s Harry Potter doesn’t go to Hogwarts. But wizard or not, Harry Potter’s story can still teach us what it takes to be successful marketers: hard work and dedication, planning while still being open to change, and operating under a number of well-meaning rules. With these tips, we can all be on our way to becoming marketing geniuses.