Advertisement

Movie Mom

Movie Mom

Harry Potter and the Curse of the Non-Fair Trade Chocolate

posted by Nell Minow

The last of the Harry Potter films is out and Fandango reported over 5000 shows were sold out before opening day. It’s a likely candidate for this year’s box office champion with multi-million dollar revenues from tickets and perhaps even more from the lucrative licensing and product sales, estimated at over $14 billion by Brand Licensing Europe.  But a recent campaign endorsed by four members of the Potter cast demonstrates that these partnerships can bring risks as well as rewards.

Advertisement

An advocacy group self-dubbed the Harry Potter Alliance has written a letter to the studio behind the Potter films, NBC Universal and Time-Warner asking them to make sure that the chocolate sold in the Harry Potter wrappers meets Time-Warners’ own ethical sourcing guidelines, with copies to Potter author J.K. Rowling, the corporations behind the theme park, and more.

The Harry Potter Alliance has also asked its members, over 100,000 in 70 chapters around the world, to support this initiative by uploading a video on the subject to CNN’s anti-slavery Freedom Project and by purchasing fair trade chocolate and sending the wrappers to Time-Warner.

Advertisement

Evanna Lynch, who plays Harry’s classmate Luna Lovegood, has signed the Alliance’s petition and made a statement in support of the campaign.  Three other actors from the cast signed on this week.

Warner Brothers has agreed to work with the Alliance and assured them that their ethical sourcing guidelines are included as a part of every licensing agreement.  In the US, most of the Harry Potter chocolate is sold in the theme park through a re-license arrangement, and their candy is a tiny fraction of the non-fair trade chocolate sold each year, so their involvement is limited.  But their profile is high and their interest in the brand is strong, which makes them a good target for this campaign.

Advertisement

Harry Potter Alliance director Andrew Slack told me that Warners is “a cut above” the other companies.  He is optimistic about making progress and Warner Consumer Products confirmed to me that they are working toward a solution.  In the meantime, there are a few lessons to be learned about licensing risk.

1. Using an established name or brand to sell your product can leave you open for a judo-like upset, using your own strength against you.  The chocolate companies and theme park paid for a license because they thought the Potter name would help sell chocolate.  The boost the candy got from the name may be overtaken by the reputational hit the name gets from selling the candy. My favorite brand expert is Jonathan Baskin (he’s also my cousin), who says, “This illustrates the complexity of translating an imaginary idea into a concrete product or service. I can’t imagine that the short-term upside outweighs the risks.”

Advertisement

2. “Guidelines” are easy to agree to and difficult to enforce.  Time-Warner may have an excellent ethical sourcing policy for its own products, but insisting on non-enforceable guidelines for licensees without any effort to check independent third-party assessments leaves them vulnerable to this kind of bad publicity.

3. The group that is making the most effective use of the Potter name is the one that did not enter into a license or pay a fee — the Harry Potter Alliance.  It has no official connection to the J.K. Rowling trademarked properties but it has been named a “fan site of the month” by her website and she has spoken approvingly of its activities.  Just as the wizards in the Potter books can’t match the healing properties of the muggle chocolates, businesses who think they understand the best use of brands have a lot to learn from the amateurs on this one.

Previous Posts

Tomorrowland's Inspirations
Brad Bird's gorgeously imagined "Tomorrowland" is not just inspired by an area in the original Disneyland, celebrating its 60th anniversary this week, it is a tribute to the sensationally imaginative work of the "imagineers" and artists who ...

posted 8:03:49am May. 22, 2015 | read full post »

Trailer: Unexpected with Cobie Smulders
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zzq7dfZn31k Samantha Abbott ("How I Met Your Mother's" Cobie Smulders) is a dedicated and passionate teacher at an inner-city Chicago high school. Just as she is coming to terms with her school closing, ...

posted 8:00:48am May. 22, 2015 | read full post »

Tomorrowland
It begins with an argument. Frank (George Clooney) is trying to tell us the story. But he is repeatedly interrupted by someone we will learn is ...

posted 7:10:31am May. 22, 2015 | read full post »

I'll See You in My Dreams
Blythe Danner gives a performance of exquisite sensitivity in "I'll See You in My Dreams," the story of a lonely widow. She plays Carol, a ...

posted 5:55:53pm May. 21, 2015 | read full post »

Interview: Brett Haley, Writer/Director of "I'll See You in My Dreams"
Brett Haley wrote and directed "I'll See You in My Dreams," a bittersweet romance starring the luminous Blythe Danner as Carol, a widow ...

posted 3:12:21pm May. 21, 2015 | read full post »

Advertisement


Report as Inappropriate

You are reporting this content because it violates the Terms of Service.

All reported content is logged for investigation.