A special thanks to Samantha Mercier and JK Rowling.

So much has been written about Harry Potter.  As millions line up for the final movie, “Deathly Hallows, Part 2”,  I’m reminded of that first book and what that book did for me as a Mom.

My son Ben was in 3rd grade, 9 years old. His teacher at Spofford Pond Elementary School, Samantha Mercier had been to London over spring break and came back with a new book to read the class after lunch. It was called “Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone”.  She read this book to the class in 15 minute segments every day.

It started simply enough. I’d ask Ben  “How was school?”.  One day he answered “Harry has a scar like a lightning bolt”.  Another day he answered  “Harry can play Quidditch” and “Harry can talk to Snakes”.   Soon he was talking about Harry Potter non-stop. Complete obsession.  Through Ben I learned about a giant named Hagrid, a school named Hogwarts, and He Who Must Not Be Named.  Just what was this Harry Potter?  It seems obvious now, but not in the beginning.

I stopped by the classroom one morning to ask the intrepid Mrs. Mercier about this book  that had so captivated my son. She said the kids begged her to keep reading it beyond the 15 minutes each day and that she had started rewarding good behavior  with additional reading minutes.  Wow … a book that 9-year olds can’t stop reading?

By June the book was done and Harry Potter had emerged as  the “every kid” hero.  On the last day of school Ben came home from Miss Mercier’s class with a package. Taped to his report card was a book,   “Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets”, the UK edition.  This  public school teacher had purchased a copy of the second book for every child in her third grade class.    My son read that book in 3 days straight and proclaimed it the BEST BOOK EVER.  Harry Potter may have been the hero, but the real hero was Samantha Mercier. Maybe the BEST TEACHER EVER for inspiring a love of reading .

I’ll watch the last movie this weekend and will be a little  sad to see the end of this beloved series, but I’m sure that Harry Potter will hold a special place for all the kids who grew up with Harry. And for all the Moms and Dads who got to live the experience of growing up with Harry Potter – both the kid in the book and the kids in our house, say a thank you to JK Rowling for inspiring a life long love of reading and the excitement when the Fedex truck appeared  with 3 copies of the Deathly Hallows so that no one had to wait to read it .

The Lost Buzz

I was driving into work at my consulting job at a hot social gaming company this morning and thinking about last night’s episode of Lost.  For those of you who aren’t devotees, you should know it’s the last season and the producers have promised to answer all the big questions.  The season’s been great so far and the buzz has just been amazing. So what’s this have to do with anything?

I watched the show last night while surfing the web on my Mac. I was reading the speculation posted by East Coast viewers of the show as well as official commentary from the likes of Entertainment Weekly.   I was pondering the questions raised by bloggers while actually watching the show ….. and shockingly, this really added to my experience. It was kind of like having an experienced tour guide take you through the Louvre  or a sports commentator during  a football game.

Fast forward to this morning. Still thinking about Lost,  I got into the car and heard two radio DJ’s discussing the show. They had obviously read the same blogs and reviews that I had and were talking about it on air like it was their original ideas.  Their discussion raised even more questions for me. I needed to know. Was that actually Willy Wonka music at the end of the episode? So I called my friend Kevin. Kevin was  actually listening to a podcast about Lost when he answered.  Kevin started giving his theories, which were the same as the Blogs , EW, and the Radio DJs earlier that day (and attributed it to the podcast)   We hung up and I received a text from my son from college. It read “Desmond is new Jacob”.   I checked Facebook. My friend J had started a thread “Desmond = Jacob 2.0”  How did this happen? Was this message planted?  What an amazing phenomenon. Viewers posting theories, discussed online, then expounded by “real” members of the press as if it was unique thought.

This got me thinking about the role of marketing and message management  in this environment. Do the marketing folks working on Lost at ABC manage all the communication? Do they anticipate what fans are going to think (and post) and message accordingly?  Feed the message so that fans and press start speculating en masse?  Does all this speculation change viewers involvement and engagement in the property? Does the instantaneous, multi-channel communication  change the marketing approach ?  The answer is probably yes to all these questions.

And these questions are likely relevant to any consumer brands with passionate, engaged customer bases. Video Games? check. Books? check. American Idol? check. Politicians? check. Southwest Airlines? check.   Yet another data point that social marketing skills are more important than ever and for all brands.  And speaking of social marketing …… you can follow me on twitter at  nancymacintyre ,  so you won’t be Lost 🙂