A Literary Referral

We all know that referral from someone’s friends and family is incredibly influential, but what about a less personal referral?

Harry Potter

I have recently been reading a book about how to create ‘Blockbusters’ in the entertainment world. It deals with blockbusters in the television industry, film industry and the live performance industry. But the industry tonight’s learning came from is the book industry.

Referrals are a powerful marketing tool. If you trust the judgement of a friend or family member, then their recommendation is going to hold a lot more weight than a simple television advertisement or the recommendation of a media outlet. (Ironically, I am reading this book due to a referral!).

But the literary sector, more so than many other types of entertainment, draws on another type of referral to gather customers.

In bookshops and the modern equivalent, Amazon, the popular books are often put on display and it doesn’t take a degree in rocket science to figure out why. Most people leave a bookshop with book they didn’t intend to purchase and if a book gives readers a reliably good experience then the retailer is going to want customers to walk out of the store with that book.

But these popular books often spawn something else. Recommendations. Many bookshops will feature displays heralding a popular book and a number of other similar options which readers might enjoy. Amazon does it on every page with their recommendations based on other similar customers’ behaviour.

It isn’t uncommon in other industries either. ‘Brought to you by the creators of . . .’, ‘Produced by the same people who created . . .’ and ‘Starring . . . . from a popular television show’ are all used to the same effect. If you liked what these people did there, then you will definitely like what they do here.

The main aim of this strategy is to decrease the risk. If an audience enjoyed one type of entertainment, chances are they will enjoy all types of similar entertainment. If you love one crime fiction author, you will probably enjoy some other crime fiction authors. If you enjoyed a romantic comedy movie, then you will probably enjoy some other romantic comedy movies.

But what about from the content creation side? Should you create content based on another popular entertainment offer?

This is a difficult question to answer. And there is not a right or wrong answer. Many entertainment franchises have hit the big time by riding on the coat tails of another popular entertainment offer. Harry Potter opened up a renewed interest in fantasy books and cinema. The Spider-Man reboot movie inspired a whole new generation of comic fans. And each of these offerings led to a whole new proliferation of similar products which flooded the marketplace.

There is the risk of getting lost, but at the same time, it satisfies a great desire. The Golden Compass, The Hunger Games and Twilight flew in on the back of the Harry Potter train, maybe another similar offer could do the same?