Farewell Harry Potter; last night the stars of the wizard movies attended the final film’s première in rain-soaked London and wet their own cheeks with tears. Aaah! I hope you are mopping your eyes now in sadness too. For many children (and quite a few adults too) the past decade has been literally dominated by the Potter phenomenon. And thanks to the vivid thoughts of J.K.Rowling muggles around the world have become more interested in reading, have had their own imaginations extended and eventually learned the complex rules of Quidditch. Furthermore, just look at the business. It has created multi-millionaires, it has taken the author from obscurity to international fame and a place on the Sunday Times Rich List. You can’t move in stores at the moment for Potter merchandise; not only can you read about the wizard boy, you can hear him on audio, see him on the big screen and even touch his broomstick. Probably, without Harry the book publishing and merchandising sectors would be in near collapse. Harry, Hermione and that Weasley boy have together done more for British industry than any other children.
What is interesting about the Potter phenomenon is that it is so “real world”. People have actually “met” Voldermort, they have shaken hands with Dumbledore. Not only that, you can dress up as Harry and you can even fly on a Hippogriff at the Wizarding World of Harry Potter. Rather like the entire Disney empire, Harry Potter does not just exist virtually, inside our head as we read the books. Instead, Harry Potter exists very firmly in the physical, three dimensional world.
Almost certainly the books would have succeeded on their own. But the vast award-winning success of the Potter business is because everything from within those books has been transformed into “reality” for us. Want a Potter broomstick? Well you can get one. Want a flying Ford Anglia? Well, they’re available too – OK in miniature..!
Which begs an important question for many online businesses. How much of your virtual online offering is also “real world”? How much of your web empire is physical?
New research on the impact of touch on emotion shows us that the physical world has a tremendous impact on our brains and our thinking. When we are touched we feel touched – our emotions are triggered by physical events. Equally, recent studies suggest that when our brain becomes emotional, our body gets physical sensations too. None of this should be too much of a surprise – after all when we are shocked we say “my heart was in my mouth” or when we are incredibly happy we shed tears. Indeed, I bet in business you often go with your “gut feeling”. The physical and the emotional are intertwined.
And as anyone who understands selling will tell you, it’s all about emotions. Online, some of the best sales occur when the visitor’s emotions are triggered in some way.
But here’s the problem with the online world: it isn’t physical. If you really want to succeed online, then you really need to complete the circle by connecting the virtual to the physical. Without the physical side of your business, you are not fully emotionally engaging with people.
For instance, today I received a newsletter in which someone raised the question “how do I sell intangible items such as a webinar at a conference?” Some people may buy a ticket if you can show them the benefits of attendance, but it is still virtual. The answer, provided in the newsletter, was to turn the webinar invitation into something physical – perhaps a booklet describing what was available, with a physical voucher to exchange online for a discount. Or if you wanted to sell a webinar in the “real world” you could make it physical by selling the access code and website details in a “boxed” item. In other words, by creating a physical representation of a virtual experience, you can connect in better ways with people and thereby sell more.
Far too often, website owners concentrate on the virtual world alone. But by thinking about how that virtual world can be represented physically you will get higher sales.
If Harry Potter’s wand can turn on your TV, then your website can enter the physical world and engage your customers in much better ways than being purely virtual.
- Harry Potter gallery: a look back down the years (heatworld.com)
- Pottermore: New J.K. Rowling Site Sends Harry Potter Fans into a Frenzy (mashable.com)
- Story telling beats facts online (grahamjones.co.uk)
Graham Jones is an Internet Psychologist who studies the way people use the online world, in particular how people engage with businesses. He uses this knowledge to help companies improve their online connections to their customers and potential customers and offers consultancy, workshops, masterclasses and webinars. He also speaks regularly at conferences and business events. Graham is an award-winning writer and the author of 32 books, several of which are about various aspects of the Internet. For more information connect with me on Google+