Tying in to Tintin

by Becky Clark, Marketing Director

Where were you in 2009? If you happened to be in a 7-Eleven, you might have come face-to-face with Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson. The convenience store giant had partnered with Warner Brothers for a merchandising tie-in of Guy Ritchie’s blockbuster movie Sherlock Holmes. Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s iconic characters were licensed into the service of 99-cent Go-Go Taquitos, their images looming over the slogan “Get a Clue.”

Movie merchandising licenses have blessed us with everything from “How Holmes Are You?” coffee sleeves to the Kung Fu Panda 2 Chia Pet. Alvin and the Chipmunks grace boxes of Kellogg’s Fruit Snacks, and the visage of Luke’s real father beckons on bags of Star Wars Vader’s Dark Side Roast Coffee.

Steven Spielberg’s The Adventures of Tintin is the latest Hollywood blockbuster to spawn a merchandising frenzy. Licensing deals have created a glut of official products, including Beanie Babies, jigsaw puzzles, keychains, and T-shirts.

Books play a big role in movie merchandising and promotion. Little, Brown and Bantam appear to have locked up the official movie tie-in books for The Adventures of Tintin. But a host of other publishers are capitalizing on the movie’s market power by releasing titles about the intrepid boy reporter and his fox terrier, including JHU Press with Hergé, Son of Tintin. These unofficial tie-in campaigns are crowded with competitors (do an Amazon search for Tintin and you’ll find more than 600 books), and they don’t always result in extra attention for the book. They also take a significant investment of lead time and marketing resources, not to mention flexibility.

We fast-tracked our critical biography of Tintin’s creator to coincide with the movie’s North American release—hoping to get swept up in the movie’s tidal wave of promotion. Manuscript Editing and Design & Production colleagues shaved their schedules so that we could start shipping books in November. Our publicity campaign began in mid-September, well before the book was published. We sent uncorrected proofs to members of the media, along with Amazon’s Vine program, which exposes selected new titles to 25 of Amazon’s best customer reviewers. As of this writing there are 14 customer reviews on Amazon, with an average of four stars.

So far, our book is reaping the benefit of the movie tie-in campaign. It has already been covered in the Wall Street Journal, Slate, and PRI’s the World. And it’s scheduled for that crème de la crème of book reviews—the New York Times Book Review—Sunday, January 22.

Movie releases and the enormous publicity they generate can help scholarly publishers draw extra attention to serious works on popular culture. In this market, we have to be just as creative and aggressive—sometimes more so—than our trade counterparts.

Just don’t look for us in 7-Eleven.