It is the year 2003. Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix has been released to fans across the globe. The 4th installment in JK Rowling’s series sees the beloved Weasley twins invest Harry’s Triwizard Cup winnings in the formation of a novelty goods business based in the fire-lit comfort of the Gryffindor common room. The infancy of Weasleys’ Wizarding Wheezes is characterized by product testing amongst first-year
guinea pigs Argus Filch Gryffindors and in-castle marketing. 766 pages later and we find that Fred and George’s budding start-up has joined the ranks of Yelp’s ‘Best of Diagon Alley,’ and the twins themselves have dropped out of Hogwarts.
Meanwhile in the Ivy-covered buildings of Cambridge, Mark Zuckerberg has just conceived an idea for Facemash, the predecessor to Facebook. Months later, Facemash becomes Thefacebook, a Harvard-exclusive social networking platform. 766 days (or so) later and Facebook is opened to the general public.
Within a relatively short window of time, both Weasleys’ Wizarding Wheezes and Facebook became entrepreneurial successes. Perhaps this was more than a matter of coincidence. Perhaps Zuckerberg took a page out of Rowling’s book…
Campus Marketing and Brand Equity
“Harvard.edu is the most prestigious email address in the country.” Zuckerberg’s original logic held that the college facebook concept is effective in that it possesses exclusivity within the university. Limiting Facebook users to those with with a Harvard.edu email domain enabled Zuckerberg and company to market the site as an exclusive enclave.
Facebook became part of the Harvard culture just as Weasleys’ Wizarding Wheezes became part of Hogwarts’ culture. The Weasley campaign was driven to Diagon Alley through the support of Hogwarts students, as apparent by the large proportion of Hogwarts students in the store as Harry arrives in Half-Blood Prince. Both marketing campaigns were centered on a cult-like campus following that provided a firm basis for growth and immense potential for future success.
Be Flexible and Opportunistic
Given insider knowledge of Voldemort’s rise to power, the Weasleys capitalized upon the changing market landscape by reshaping their image to reflect the grim zeitgeist. The joke shop’s goods became more than novelty items—they transformed into tools of defense used to combat the dark arts, some of which adopted for use by the Ministry of Magic itself. Recognizing that anti-gravity hats and U-No-Poo may be ill-received with the Dark Lord at large and Muggle-borns in danger, Fred and George developed shield hats, cloaks, and gloves, decoy detonators, and Peruvian Instant Darkness Powder to aid Dumbledore Army’s efforts.
Though Facebook was originally limited to a Harvard audience, Zuckerberg’s recognition of the potential for growth led him to expand to campuses on both coasts and abroad. Eventually, the college-exclusive social networking opened to the public on September 26, 2006, soon experiencing nearly 200% monthly growth. In addition to expanding beyond the Harvard domain, Zuckerberg also opened up a channel of revenue through advertising, a move that The Social Network attributes Zuckerberg describing as “uncool” in the early stages of development. Broadening his initial plans and capitalizing on every opportunity available has vaulted Zuckerberg into the list of the Top 10 Youngest CEOs in the country.
The obvious parallels between the marketing strategies of Weasleys’ Wizarding Wheezes and Facebook provide clever insight into the success of two start-up companies. So the next time you find yourself with a thousand galleons of pocket change, look no further than to invest in a social networking start-up.