Hairy PR games with Mr. Potter

Old Hat

I have very little interest in the Harry Potter thing – I think it is clever on a marketing level and I would much rather kids be involved with it than, say, Bratz: The Kings Cross Backstreet Edition but that’s about it. Of course, from a PR perspective big product launches can be a chance to piggyback if you know what you are doing, and if you are doing the launch you’d better watch out for accidents.

Could not help noticing the potentially phoney row between Bloomsbury and Asda alongside Bloomsbury vs. The New York Times. Asda quite sensibly wants the book as a loss leader, so wants to sell it at £12ish below RRP. Bloomsbury made a temporary show of delaying shipments of the thing, citing some kind of obscure billing dispute when of course the real issue was the fear of having its margins cut elsewhere.

Who knows what was happening behind the scenes, but from a PR perspective it was pretty silly on the publisher’s part, as it publicised Asda’s price more than would have been possible otherwise while being rather clever on Asda’s. Asda, which is a bit troubled at present because even the lower orders are realising that cheap can mean rubbish, gets to present itself as a consumer champion. Many shoppers will now visit Asda for a copy of the thing and may well pick up some higher margin stuff on the way out. In the end, refusing to deal with retailers because you do not like their discounts is a market abuse that should be illegal.

Vis a vis the NYT, the mistake Bloomsbury made was to do anything at all. A review appeared earlier than it would have liked, but these kinds of supply chains are leakier than a monsoon (what keen soul has not picked up a CD before release date?) so it was inevitable one would have slipped out. The review is by all accounts very positive, so Bloomsbury should have felt rather silly about having such a cloak of secrecy that the review process was not controlled before distribution as might usually be expected and kept quiet rather than drawing attention to the leak. Maybe they inhaled too much pixie dust to be sensible.


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