How To Kill A Mockingbird

To Kill A Mockingbird. It is one of the most well-known books of all time. Chances are that it was prescribed reading at some point during your secondary education as you examined the tremendous influence of racial tensions on American society. But the estate of Harper Lee has just made a decision about this book which could be a means to an end for its decades long reign.


Young adults are an important part of the marketing cycle. We develop habits when we are young. We readily expose ourselves to a significant amount of stimuli when we are young. And we grow brand associations which will support us throughout our life (and pass onto our children). To Kill A Mockingbird is one of those brand associations.

Everybody has to read To Kill A Mockingbird at some point during their schooling. It is a great literary example of the controlling force of race during a pivotal moment in American history and is held up as one of the finest pieces of literature on the market. And two-thirds of this book’s sales were the trade paperback version which is sold directly to schools meaning that the young adult market plays a significant role in consuming this product when they are young and then carrying it with them throughout life to pass onto their friends and future children. So what if you removed this market?

That is what the estate of Harper Lee, author of Mockingbird, are looking to do.

Well, that is not their aim. Their aim is to raise more money for the estate. In a rather controversial decision, the trade paperback version of this book is being discontinued at the wishes of the estate. This iteration is the cheapest version at $8.99 next to the commercial paperback which sells for $14.99. The trade version isn’t as beautifully presented as the other versions, it crams more lines into a page and is printed on a lower quality stock, but it is the version which is readily bought by school students.

The book industry is having a difficult time moving inventory as it is and even a price increase of $1 (let alone $6) has a significant impact. There is no doubt that this book will remain on school booklists, but will it actually result in students paying an extra $6 to the estate of Harper Lee?

No way.

Customers are already becoming savvier about their purchasing. They will shop around for discounts, turn to second-hand options or investigate the resale market through portals such as eBay and Amazon. This price increase will only drive more customers to these alternative options – of which Harper Lee’s estate sees no extra revenue. The rest? Well, it will slowly drift off the booklists of schools trying to keep prices down.

So what does this have to do with entertainment marketing? This is a classic example of a producer putting money ahead of audience experience and customer needs. If this price increase means that the product no longer supports the financial incentive to inspire a whole new generation of students, then schools will turn to other options because there are plenty of competitors out there who deal with the same topics and write with even more flair. It may appear to lose a small market of people, but these are your brand ambassadors who will go forth and spread your brand far and wide in the future – short term gain for long term gain.

It is always important to consider the audience experience. Just because you can charge more for a product, doesn’t always mean you should in a move which could actually kill the mockingbird!