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Why J.K. Rowling is the Queen of digital marketing

16th March 2016

In many professions there are clearly identifiable role models who are great at what they do and universally liked or respected within and outside of their field of expertise. David Beckham, Richard Branson, Dame Judi Dench and Lord Alan Sugar are examples of people who have built their brand based on being really good (not just talented) at what they do. While many of these people are accepted as huge role models in their own field, few are also as accomplished in other disciplines, like digital marketing for example.

As a member of the 'Harry Potter generation' I think J.K. Rowling is the perfect example of someone who is accomplished in multi-disciplines and digital marketing is one of them. She may not even realise she's doing it, but here are the reasons why J.K. Rowling should be your digital marketing role model:

She nurtures her fan base

This is something every brand can learn from; she replies, comments, shares and nurtures her fans posts on social media and encourages their love of her brand. In this tweet, she says how proud she is of the children still dressing up as her famous boy wizard for World Book Day:

She has personality (sense of humour & empathy/sympathy)

J.K. Rowling has a wicked sense of humour on Twitter and really lets her personality shines through her brand. Her magical (sorry) way with words is particularly prevalent when trolled by unsuspecting 'haters', as demonstrated here:

She does content marketing, always

Unless you're one of the most dedicated Potterheads, you may not have heard of Pottermore LINK . It's a haven for Potterheads online and features exclusive pieces written by J.K. Rowling herself which expand the universe in which the original books are set. This is a great example of the sort of content marketing that J.K. Rowling and her team continue to do around the Harry Potter brand. Some might say it's taking it to the extreme but there's a host of statistics that say it's far easier to re-sell to an existing customer (fan) than it is to gain a sale from a new customer. Looking after your existing fans is super-important and many brands could learn from Pottermore and how it has achieved this. Examples of the type of additional content produced this can be found below:

She stands for what she believes in

A key quality about J.K. Rowling is that she is always really honest and stands up for causes she believes in, recognising that she can use her celebrity status for good. Although you may not be an actual celebrity, you should be aware that your brand has influence over any fans it has on social media (this can be both a blessing and a curse) so choose your causes well and remember that what you say online, stays online. In the past J.K. Rowling has publicly spoken out in support of junior doctors and Emma Watson's various attacks on the lack of women's equality across the globe.

She encourages user-made content

Rowling recognises that the Harry Potter world is all about harnessing your imagination and there has been an explosion of fanfiction about the wizarding world since the books and films were released. She regularly answers users' questions about characters, relationships, Hogwarts and more with full and thought-through answers. This partly comes from her encyclopaedic imagination of the wizarding world, but just as with most small businesses, she's able to answer any question about the world because it's her, she created it and she will forever be the decision maker about what is included and what is not. This user-made content spreads the Harry Potter brand yet further to more target audience members and adds more and more value to the brand.

In Summary

Admittedly, J.K. Rowling had a ready-made fan base with which to build her brand further but she has gone on to successfully maintain a fan base (and gain more support) who were very young when the Harry Potter books were first published. Even the way that she first gained this fan base screams of top-notch marketing tactics:

  1. Build a fan base by emotionally engaging a target audience (release a book about a secret world of witchcraft and wizardry which has always existed and no one ever knew about. Feature a main protagonist who is cursed for life but still manages to somehow be a decent (if flawed) human being who makes it through all eight books. Aim the books at children young enough to feel that world is real and rally behind the protagonist)
  2. Convert the fan base into sales (release more books under the same brand, sign a movie contract and license spin-offs, follow ups and merchandise that will make you richer than the Queen)
  3. Re-invigorate the fan base with further products and releases (Cast an Oscar-nominated actor in a film set in the same wizarding universe, open a theme park in America which has a working magical train line and a huge castle)