The Magic of Marketing Harry Potter

Hype-marketing and the laws of supply and demand

Imagine that you couldn’t find your favorite book or movie on shelves anymore – you know, that one that you love so much that you just have to own it even though you have a subscription to Netflix (or Blockbuster, if Netflix’s stock is any indication), and you hardly ever crack out the paper and ink books preferring to read on your iPad or Kindle.

Or maybe, you’ve followed a series for what amounts to basically your entire life and now it’s finally come to an end. Do you own all of the books? All of the movies? If you don’t, you want to complete your collection, right?

That’s what Warner Brothers is banking on heading into the 2011 holiday season. They announced yesterday that no more Harry Potter DVDs or Blu-Rays will be shipped to stores starting on December 29. The films will be heading into retirement for an as yet-undisclosed amount of time.

Warner Brothers is not the first company to attempt to increase demand by taking movies off shelves. Disney has been doing so with the Disney vault for years now. Every few years they’ll pull a Disney classic “out of the vault” for a limited amount of time. They bank on the fact that parents will want to buy the movies they loved as children for their own children or grandchildren and rush out to buy them before they head “back to the Disney vault.”

The situation with Potter is only made more drastic by the fact that the 8th and final Harry Potter movie, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2, will have only been available in stores for a month and a half as it isn’t slated for home video release until Nov. 11.


It’s a classic case of supply and demand – or what I like to call hype-marketing.

While I’ve seen an outcry from Potter fans across the twitterverse, everyone knows they’re going to go out and buy the final movie before the Dec. 29 deadline. It completes the collection and makes the perfect holiday gift.

In fact, it would have made more sense for Warner Brothers to pull the movie a month and a half after the final film’s home release had it happened in July when there isn’t a built-in gift giving season.

While a lot of people are decrying the fact that “new” Potter fans will be left in a lurch should they happen upon the series post Dec. 29, the movies will still be available on-demand and digitally.

Plus, we all know how this works – Random House waited until the first three books were published, then packaged those three for Christmas.

When books four and five hit shelves? That’s right, another opportunity to purchase them packaged together.

Books six and seven? Why, then we got the special edition, entire series pack.

They’ll head to the vault for a year, and then, right in time for the 2012 Holiday season I bet Warner Bros. packages all eight movies into one special and limited edition option with special features not found anywhere else.

But movies aren’t the only place we see distributors playing with hype-marketing.

For a Limited Time Only

McDonald’s announced on Monday that the McRib sandwich is back at restaurants for a limited time in stores. I felt like an insider when this was announced because I saw a billboard for the McRib on I-74 W on the road to Indianapolis last week. It was strange, I hadn’t heard that the McRib was back, but knew the announcement had to come soon.

Now, I’ve never eaten a McRib, something about a boneless barbecue pork sandwich seems unnatural to me, but I have to admit that every year when I start hearing the commercials or seeing the billboards or reading the tweets I get curious. One day, I’ll breakdown and try one, but that day always comes after McDonald’s puts the McRib “back into the vault.” While the McRib’s disappearing act doesn’t do anything for me, I know a lot of people who rushed out to buy one on the first day because they couldn’t wait to taste the savory goodness again.

Coming This Fall…

A similar hype-marketing strategy is happening with Yuengling beer in southwestern Ohio. The company recently expanded sales to the region and hyped the release with simple billboards with a picture of a bottle of Yuengling and the words “This Fall” cropping up all over Cincinnati.

While the beer won’t be taken off shelves and “put into a vault” the supply and demand concepts are the same as when these Disney or Harry Potter movies or McRib’s reappear in stores. People are flocking to stores to buy the beer. It’s new. It’s different. It’s exciting. They’re taking pictures at tailgates showing off the drink. They’re hoarding it in separate coolers at parties to make sure that the “lesser” beers are gone before pulling them out to share.

It’s hard to tell, right now, if Yuengling is being released in small quantities to stores. I haven’t seen much and when my friends see it, they’re buying about as much as they can afford, so the novelty of the purchase might be increasing sales.

But eventually the hype will die down. Everyone will have had tasted the new beer and they’ll realize it’s still on shelves. And that’s when the vicious cycle of supply and demand hype-marketing starts over.

I don’t believe Yuengling will pull their beer off shelves as movie distributors or McDonald’s might be apt to do, but complacency in the consumer market can cause corporations to do strange things.

Have you seen any other examples of hype-marketing recently?

Post By Liz Harter (70 Posts)

Liz Harter has a degree in English Writing with a minor in Spanish from Saint Mary’s College in Notre Dame, Ind. She is an award winning journalist on the collegiate level with a strong background in journalism. She currently works in PR and is a social media autodidact Google+

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About the Author

Liz Harter has a degree in English Writing with a minor in Spanish from Saint Mary’s College in Notre Dame, Ind. She is an award winning journalist on the collegiate level with a strong background in journalism. She currently works in PR and is a social media autodidact Google+

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