Two decades after Scholastic released Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone, the first installment of the beloved book series by J.K. Rowling, Harry Potter remains one of the top franchises at Warner Bros. Consumer Products, delighting its expansive and loyal fanbase with new content, engaging products and immersive experiences.
“Research tells us that the Wizarding World is more relevant and contemporary today than ever before,” says Maryellen Zarakas, senior vice president, franchise management and marketing, Warner Bros. Consumer Products. “In addition to having a powerful slate of new content and experiences in the pipeline, our fanbase also continues to expand as Millennials, who were once waiting in line for the book release, become parents and are now introducing the franchise to their children.”
The magical universe made a resurgence in 2016 when it expanded to include new stories from J.K. Rowling such as the critically-acclaimed play “Harry Potter and the Cursed Child” and the blockbuster film Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them.
Warner Bros. Consumer Products has also kept the franchise visible with the launch of new products and experiences for fans to engage with the brand. For example, WBCP’s licensing partner Universal Parks & Resorts expanded The Wizarding World of Harry Potter to include Hogsmeade at Universal Studios Hollywood and introduced new shows such as “The Nighttime Lights at Hogwarts Castle,” a colorful state-of-the-art light display featuring special effects projection.
WBCP has also forged a number of new licensing partnerships to expand the brand in new directions. Last year, Pottery Barn Teen and sister company Williams Sonoma launched an inspired line of Harry Potter home products. The collaboration with Pottery Barn included themed bedding, accessories, lamps, backpacks, lap desks and blankets, while Williams Sonoma brought themed spatulas and aprons to the market. Partnerships with new and emerging brands in the apparel and accessories space, such as Alex & Ani and Danielle Nicole, also gave Harry Potter fans a new way to express their fandom with fashion.
Collaborations with retail partners have also lent some magic to the retail experience. WBCP teamed up with Primark across Europe to bring magical touches inspired by Harry Potter in store. Key flagship locations featured everything from floating Hogwarts letters and wands to stacked luggage and other inspired props, delivering a dream shopping experience to fans.
“We are constantly developing new ways to enhance the shopping experience for our fans, driving a more meaningful and long-lasting relationship with the brand and retail partner,” says Preston Kevin Lewis, senior vice president, sales and retail business development, Warner Bros. Consumer Products. “We will continue to re-imagine how we show up at retail this year, with plans to deliver even more unique experiences for our fans to engage in the Wizarding World.”
WBCP says 2018 will be a momentous year for the Wizarding World, with an impressive slate that includes the highly anticipated release of Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald this fall and exciting tentpoles that will fuel the franchise and engage fans throughout the year.
Earlier this year, Warner Bros. released all-new Wizarding World branding that will be incorporated across all franchise activity including packaging and retail displays, starting this July. The new branding speaks to its publishing roots as well as the brand’s core DNA in magic by featuring principal character wands.
“With a new brand identity that encompasses the ever-expanding universe, we are taking a fresh approach to fan engagement that fuels storytelling, imagination and creativity,” says Zarakas. “Excitement and buzz continues to build as we release new content into the market. Through compelling collaborations, organic promotions and inventive products, we are focused on creating a deeper relationship between the brand and fans.”
In addition to the new branding, Warner Bros. plans to fuel the franchise year-round with meaningful activities and products designed to celebrate the action-packed storylines and cast of fan-favorite wizards from the films. The year of the Wizarding World kicked off in January at Universal Orlando Resorts’ A Celebration of Harry Potter, a three-day event that welcomed thousands of fans.
This back-to-school season, the brand will be celebrating Back to Hogwarts with new products and retail activations planned across multiple departments and retailers around the world. LEGO will launch a new Wizarding World line inspired by both Harry Potter and Fantastic Beasts films. The collection, which retails from $3.99 to $399, already has fans buzzing. Toy licensee Jakks Pacific will introduce new interactive and technologically enhanced wands that spur imagination and play around Harry Potter.
On Nov. 16, the second installment of the Fantastic Beasts series, Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald, premieres to audiences around the world. Featuring an array of new creatures and characters, the film draws a close connection to Harry Potter. The film will be supported with a global licensing and merchandising program that includes a range of merchandise, from replica artifacts for collectors to lifestyle apparel and accessories for fans of all ages. The licensing program will debut worldwide in September, and also includes publishing, stationery, fine collectibles, gifts and novelties, home décor, apparel, accessories, costumes and more.
In December, the brand will shift into high gear for the holidays with a broad variety of activations for the entire family, including an expanded line of spellbinding products wrapped in festive holiday packaging, and unique holiday merchandise and entertainment, including Universal’s projection mapping show “The Magic of Christmas at Hogwarts Castle” at Hollywood, Orlando and Japan locations. The Christmas in the Wizarding World Mall Experience, which welcomed hundreds of thousands of guests at the Utah and Bangkok locations in 2017, will add more locations around the world this holiday season.
“We are eager to share what we have developed for 2018 with our fans, but with affinity and awareness for the brand at an all-time high, we are already looking ahead to how we continue the momentum with disruptive partnerships, immersive experiences and breakthrough products,” says Zarakas.