The Trouble With Harry
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, the seventh and final installment of J.K. Rowling's blockbuster children's book series, hits stores (with a thud, at 784 pages) on July 21. The series has recorded a stunning 325 million book sales worldwide since its 1997 debut. Along the way, Harry Potter has spawned a multibillion-dollar industry complete with the requisite movies and video games, plus merchandise ranging from Hogwarts-crested iPods to earwax-flavored jelly beans. Universal Studios is rumored to be planning a Potter theme park in Orlando. But how will the franchise fare following the publication of the final chapter? We asked some smart muggles what they would do if they could persuade Rowling to grant them the rights to the Potter trademark.
Go after teachers
Renee Whitney, co-owner of Be Amazing, a company that makes science-oriented toys in Salt Lake City
"The first thing you'd want to do is develop teacher study guides for the books. There are all kinds of teacher resource books that tie directly into a children's classic, like Charlotte's Web, and that spell out activities related to a story that teachers can do with their class. Thus far, I haven't seen anything like that for Harry Potter. Then, since the big money is in licensing, I would develop a line of licensed products like a Harry Potter science kit. But where I think they went wrong before, and what I would emphasize in this line of products, is the educational value. Harry Potter is a great way to hook kids into science."
Find Fleur Delacour
Sean Ryan, CEO of Meez, a website that allows users to create and customize animated avatars, in San Francisco
"With a classic series like this one, you often see people create spinoff properties based on secondary characters. When an extension like that works, it works wonderfully well. In one of the books, Harry took part in the Triwizard Tournament, where he met and competed with a girl from France named Fleur Delacour. She could be a natural spinoff that would take the whole series in a different but related direction."
A Harry Potter V-chip
Omar Mohammed Faruk, founder of BlueStream, which builds nonprofits' websites, in Brooklyn, New York
"I would develop software or games that would teach children to read and to use PCs. Do you know how Microsoft has those tacky wizards in Word that ask you if you need help? Something like that. You could even make a feature for kids' PCs to keep them away from certain websites. If you try to go somewhere online that you shouldn't, Harry Potter pops up and stops you."
Make some magic
William Kalush, executive director of the Conjuring Arts Research Center, a not-for-profit library in New York City
"One way to keep the brand alive and keep interest in it growing is to let kids become Harry Potter instead of just reading about him. So I would put the focus back on magic by creating a special edition of each of the books that teaches kids how to perform magic effects. If we sat down and thought it through, we could come up with effects that would approximate what Harry and some of the other characters do in the books and movies."
Packaged goods tie-ins
David Borgenicht, president and publisher of Quirk Books in Philadelphia
"Harry Potter is now a classic children's book series. But I believe that some brands have adult crossover potential, especially as the kids who read the first books grow up. As that happens, I'd move in the direction of pseudo self-help books, like What Would Harry Do? With a nonfiction series, there's a lot of opportunity for cross-merchandising and co-branding. Imagine Harry Potter's Guide to Dating as a perfect tie-in for Close-Up toothpaste. Or Hagrid's Cookbook tied to Omaha Steaks and Jimmy Dean sausage. As these kids grow older still, more domestic brands could tie in with the Harry Potter series to produce cleaning products like Shout's magical spot removers. Who wants a plain old pen when they could have one that looks like Harry Potter's wand?"
License to the max
Leonard Flax, co-founder and CEO of Kate's Paperie in New York City
"Harry Potter stationery. Harry Potter gift wrap. Harry Potter coloring books. Harry Potter stickers. Harry Potter kites. A Harry Potter candy bar."
Harry's Second Life
Gordon Gould, co-founder and CEO of ThisNext, a shopping site based in Los Angeles
"Why not give people the tools to extend the Harry Potter fantasy on their own? The online environment offers an opportunity to extend a character's fantasy life. Whether users could become an existing character or create a new character doesn't matter. The goal would be to create a safe, fun environment where Harry Potter fans could interact with one another and continue to explore this fantasy world. If it became a robust community, you would undoubtedly start to see people create and trade virtual objects for real money. If you have a million minds working on developing this fantasy world, you never know what great brand extensions are going to come out of it."