Jk Rowling, creator of the Harry Potter empire and arguably one of the most successful authors of our time, has committed a terrible mistake that drastically trashed, or at least severely tarnished, her reputation.
What she did ( mind you, she’s a billionaire, so it won’t hurt, at least not on the financial level) is a perfect lesson in what-you-should-NEVER-ever do with your brand.
And it’s vital reminder to you, a digital creative, especially if you’re not backed up bya billion dollar cushion.
Now enough with the teasing, here’s what happened :
After writing the insanely popular children book series Harry Potter ( over 450,000,000 copies sold worldwide. Picture that !), she thought it was time for a lil change.
So she went for the adult world, and must have thought, boy, let’s get REALLY ADULT here.
Her new book “The Casual Vacancy” is not just about adults dealing with adult themes.
It’s “filled with gritty, depressive, unlikeable characters, drugs, F-bombs and intense sex scenes” according to the reviews.
In short – it’s the COMPLETE opposite of what she’s written before. And here lies the problem:
It’s perfectly acceptable to try out new stuff, and it’s understandable that JK was probably sick to the stomach about writing that wand-wielding, four-eyed wizard boy.
BUT when you build a RAVING fan base around a certain style, in her case imaginative children storytelling in the magic world, you set up EXPECTATIONS.
And a brand is all about
SETTING UP EXPECTATIONS :
Nike – unleashing the athlete warrior within you
or how about :
Disney – creating family-friendly entertainment
You set up expectations, and you fulfill them, that’s how you increase your fans base and keep ‘em super-happy.
But JK complete went totally 180° on her brand, and blew every expectation people had of her.
If you look at her Amazon reviews for her new book, you see that she got most reviews in the 1 star (the worst grade) department. Here’s what some of her “former” fans have to say about the book:
“I read Harry Potter, but bought this with an open mind and not looking for an Adult Magical world, but what I go was garbage. I rarely share my opinion of books, but wanted to warn readers to not waste their money on this book. I was bored and the characters were flat and not written well. Just save your money and buy something else. I not only wish I could get my money back, but the time I wasted reading this. Rowlings is good at writing Young Adult wizard novels and needs to find a new wizard to write about.”
“Why? Did we do something wrong? Did we not love her and her books enough?”
“I am disappointed with the profanity and vulgar language in her book. A good author does not need to resort to foul language and explicit sex scenes to entertain adults”
“If you expect Harry Potter – DON’T buy !
I am so disappointed, mainly because I’ve been looking forward to this book for so long, and now it’s here it’s a stupid grown-up book!!! Says me, 50+, but still a child at heart”
“Too many swear words. I read for 15 minutes and encountered 3 swear words.”
And here’s by far my favorite :
“It was my 8 year old daughters birthday and I happened to be in my local book store. I saw this in a display and thought “…Wow, she wrote the Harry Potter series, my daughter Ophelia would love this”.
Anyway, I wrapped it up and gave it to her.
Next thing I knew she asked me questions about drugs and sex..she said they were in the book I bought for her birthday.
I feel that her childhood is gone now.
This book should be sold BEHIND the counter so people know its not for children.
How can we expect our children to grow up happy and healthy when filth is all around?”
Notice how the buyer didn’t even check the synopsis on the back of the book.
She didn’t know ONE thing about the book, because she linked JK Rowling to imaginative children storytelling, and that’s what she EXPECTED from her new book. Achieving this – making people buy your new products, even if they don’t know anything about it - is the incredible powerful effect of creating your reputation.
Listen, I don’t want to smash JK Rowling, she’s a wonderful author that changed the world with her Harry Potter series. But even legends screw up, and I want to show you what you can learn from her misstep:
How you can avoid the JK fail yourself
A (personal) brand is about setting up EXPECTATIONS and fulfilling them.
If you become known for a style and attract fans that luv you for it, you create TRUST and set up
expectations. They buy your stuff because they believe what you believe.
When you release new work, your fans will be buy it based on the work you created before.
Be consistent with your message and presentation.
You can take liberties in your work, and you should to stay relevant, but be careful when you create something that’s the COMPLETE OPPOSITE SPECTRUM of what you’ve created before.
Imagine Disney creating a hardcore porn movie. Aside the outrage it would cause, it would also smash the brand’s imagge for a long long long time, as
you question EVERYTHING that brand ever created before (“Were those hearty children stories all coming from a sick & twisted mind ?”)
You’ll tarnish, or even worse, trash your entire reputation, and we know reputation takes YEARS to build and SECONDS to destroy.
At least in my opinion.
What’s your say ?
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