Ostensibly 'giving something back', the new interactive site is also a perfectly positioned platform to sell millions of ebooks.

Piers Fawkes, PSFK
  • 23 june 2011

Powered by
This article titled “Pottermore gives away JK Rowling’s marketing genius” was written by Sam Jordison, for on Thursday 23rd June 2011 16.03 UTC

Imagine, if you will, the perfect 21st-century marketing campaign. First, you’d probably want to start with a teaser. Perhaps a little clue somewhere that will lead people to a branded “coming soon” webpage that will attract 100,000s of Twitter followers within hours. A day or so later, you’d tell a story guaranteeing you blanket press coverage surrounding your product. You’d want to use that free advertising to direct millions of people to your own corner of the web, where you would extract their email address and build up their sense of anticipation and excitement by telling them that something “unique” will be happening there soon. This unique thing will then enable you to tease out further demographic details from the website’s visitors. You will also be able to flood them with information about a brand new and reasonably priced range of products which cost you next to nothing to produce and which will garner you (at a rough estimate) several gazillion pounds sterling. On the way, you’ll also be able to slip in some advertising for the products you already have out on the market, not to mention reminding everyone that (as luck has it) you also have a film coming out in a month too. Yes, is a stroke of genius.

Once again, JK Rowling and her marketing team have left the rest of the publishing world standing while she blazes a trail into the record books. I’ll eat my hardback copy of The Deathly Hallows if the Harry Potters aren’t the fastest-selling ebooks in history by the end of this year – and I can only tip my hat in admiration.

First, there’s the simplicity and brilliance of the marketing campaign outlined above. Then, there is the clever way the Rowling machine has ensured fans new and old will want to visit the new, ebook-selling platform by offering them what sounds like a genuinely enjoyable and worthwhile experience. Is there a Harry Potter devotee anywhere who isn’t just a little curious about advertised nuggets such as the story of “Professor McGonagall’s love for a Muggle as a young woman” or how Mr and Mrs Dursley met? What Potter fan wouldn’t want to answer a Rowling-devised questionnaire to sort them into the relevant wizarding house, or go through the process of finding the right wand? It’s also easy to imagine that millions (and I don’t use that figure loosely) will want to add their own contributions to the site. It promises to be an excellent interactive experience – just the sort of thing to give you a warm glow and put you in the right frame of mind to start buying.

The significance of the way in which these ebooks are being sold, meanwhile, cannot be overstated. has allowed Rowling to neatly sidestep the middle man (Amazon), maintain complete control over pricing, scoop up nearly all the profits from royalties, and keep all the sales information and the further marketing opportunities that offers to herself. She will also more than likely do all of that at a price and quality that will leave her customers almost as delighted as her publishers (who remain on board) and her accountants. She’s even found a neat solution to the problem of copyright theft by using a digital watermarking system that links the identity of the purchaser to an individual ebook. There will be none of the sour taste and technical glitches associated with DRM software, and no punitive lawsuits – but there will be a real inducement to actually buy the book and an added element of shame for all who steal it. Wired magazine has called this “publishing’s Radiohead moment”. But it’s more than that. It’s publishing’s new Harry Potter moment. The Hogwarts’ Express money train is riding back into town.

The most impressive thing of all, though, is the way Rowling has managed to present the whole thing as an act of altruism. “I wanted to give something back to the fans that have followed Harry so devotedly over the years, and to bring the stories to a new generation,” she says. This isn’t necessarily hogwash: at this stage in her fantastically lucrative career, money presumably isn’t the driving force for Rowling and there’s every chance that she does love the fans who have made her so successful. Yes, it would be refreshing if she just admitted she was once again going to bewitch parents and children alike into emptying out their pockets. It also would be quite pleasing if she were to openly celebrate the fact that she has one of the finest marketing teams on the planet behind her. But to do so would be bad marketing. Everyone knows the most important rule of selling is to convince the sucker who’s paying that you’re doing them a favour … © Guardian News & Media Limited 2010

Published via the Guardian News Feed plugin for WordPress.


Digital Design Expert: Mobile First Is Dead, Think Mobile Native

Automotive Today

Toyota Is Using Sewage To Power Its New Electric Car

A new hydrogen-fueled vehicle is driven by what we flush away

Culture Today

Catch A Concert On This Small Floating Island

A man-made archipelago in Italy is hosting music and art performances


Get PSFK's Related Report: Future of Automotive

See All
Design & Architecture Today

DIY Kit Lets You Build Your Own Wooden Bike, Boat Or Caravan

Woodenwidget says its detailed guides are suitable for beginners and experienced woodworkers alike

Related Expert

LiAnne Yu

Consumer Culture in China

Design Today

Crash-Friendly Drone Made From LEGOs Is Completely Rebuildable

The clever device offers games, education and the uniquely rewarding experience of destroying your high-flying airship

Fitness / Sport Today

Free Sneakers Given Out To Motivated Marathon Runners

Strava will give the shoes to athletes who run the second half of their race faster than the first

Culture Today

Someone Invented A Robot Just To Serve Trays Of Beef Jerky

Boston Red Sox star David Ortiz, in partnership with Chef's Cut Real Jerky, creates an automated snack delivery system


Future Of Automotive
Scenarios Driving The Digital Transformation Of An Industry

PSFK Op-Ed september 26, 2016

Why Building Better Offices Is The Key To Employee Engagement

Interaction Designer and Audio-visual Technologist at ESI Design illustrates the value in creating environments filled with surprise and delight

PSFK Labs Today

The 10 Steps To Discover, Hire, Develop Your Next Leader

PSFK's Future of Work report outlines key steps in the employee development path to empower next-gen leaders

Millennials Today

Why A Social Networking Site Decided To Rebrand

Meetup, a platform that connects like-minded individuals, has taken steps to stay relevant amongst millennials

Work Today

Editorial Roundtable: The People-First Workplace Should Borrow From Tradition

Managed By Q, Soma, Workbar, Primary, AltSchool and thinkPARALLAX underline the old-fashioned ideas that deserve a place in the Future of Work

Fashion Today

Handbags Crafted From An Old NFL Stadium

People for Urban Progress is an up-cycling program that tackles the waste problem of big demolitions

Work Today

Tech Job Site Created Just For Those Who Are Older Than 30

A new occupational job board presents a creative solution to age discrimination in the tech world

Europe Today

Architect Turns A Giant Smile Into A Public Exhibition

The structure offers visitors a new perspective of London and creates an immersive environment that integrates structure, surface, space and light


Future Of Work
Cultivating The Next Generation Of Leaders

Children Today

Norwegian Kids Are Using Their Phones To Log Unsafe Street Conditions

Travel Agent is an app that gamifies the reporting of hazardous conditions to improve the safety of children's commute to school

Travel Today

Google Wants To Help You Plan Your Next Trip

A new app curates vacation itineraries and organizes reservation emails to take the work out of planning a getaway

Technology Today

Small Handheld Analyzer Checks Oral Hygiene On The Go

The breath-detecting gadget gives people a quick and easy peek into their dental health

No search results found.