Exactly 20 years ago, J.K. Rowling changed the world of literature forever. Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone, part one of the 7-book Harry Potter series, was first published on June 26, 1997. I fell headfirst into the magical world of Hogwarts when I was 8, and soon, by the age of 10, spent my summers rereading all of Harry’s adventures, anxiously awaiting the day when I could line up outside the nearest bookstore at 5 am (India didn’t do midnight releases) for the next installment.
At the age of 11, I didn’t get my Hogwarts letter, but that was okay, because I got to grow up with Harry anyway. Hermione’s sound advice, Hagrid’s kindness, Snape’s sarcasm, Dumbledore’s wit, Luna’s lunatics, and the Weasley twins’ jokes saw me through my ups and downs. In my adolescence, Harry Potter taught me about concepts like tough love, loyalty, and bravery. Now that I’m in my twenties, HP continues to educate me; here are 5 things Harry Potter taught me about branding.
#1 Create distinct brands.
The 4 houses at Hogwarts all have their own unique brands. Gryffindor is for brave leaders; those with street smarts and ambition belong in Slytherin; Ravenclaw welcomes academic achievers; and lastly, Hufflepuff is all-inclusive. Creating 4 distinct brands helps readers associate characters with the house that they belong too, but it goes further than that. By providing such individually strong values for each house, readers begin to identify with certain houses themselves, making them feel like they’re a part of the adventure. It instantly creates a connection with the readers, ensuring that they’re in it for the long haul.
#2 Stay true to your brand, but don’t let it harm you.
In Deathly Hallows, members of the Order of the Phoenix clone themselves to Harry’s appearance while transporting him, to confuse the Death Eaters. However, by this time, Harry has become infamous for using the disarming Expelliarmus spell (to cause only minimal damage, and because he wants to avoid using more violent, torturous spells), and so, the Death Eaters are on the lookout for the Harry that would use Expelliarmus. Harry’s brand of steering clear of the Unforgivable Curses and concentrating on the more layman hexes and spells makes it easy to predict his behavior. In this case, it proves detrimental; Harry’s owl Hedwig dies. Lesson learnt: navigate your brand to your own advantage, and it’s okay to go off-brand for a second or two to gain an edge.
#3 When expanding, look to your existing brand for inspiration.
Throughout the Weasley twins’ academic lives, they cultivated a brand: ingenious, jovial clowns, yet loyal friends. Their (extremely successful) joke-shop Weasleys’ Wizarding Wheezes is modeled after their own brand of pranking with pomp and flair. Your products should be an extension of you: your ideals, values, and personality. Use your own brand to build something unique.
#4 Create a logo that resonates.
When the Dark Mark burns into the flesh of Death Eaters and flashes in the sky, it resonates. Even after more than a decade, the Dark Mark is able to produce in witches, wizards, and Voldemort’s followers what the Dark Lord himself can do in person— terrify, and wreak havoc, yet unite. The ideal brand logo should be able to do just that: each time consumers see it, it should remind and reinforce in them what the brand stands for, as well as unite them.
#5 Brands = Teams
Key to Harry’s success in each book is the help he receives from friends, peers, advisors, and teachers. Even Voldemort, who has an existing network of followers, needs assistance from others. The most carefully cultivated brand will be rendered useless without a team. Your friends, followers, mentors, and consumers are your team; they are essential in getting your brand to reach your desired market(s). In the end, it’s all about teamwork.