Last year saw the second iteration of Hodder’s King for a Day campaign, with a month of activity celebrating Stephen King’s titles while engaging his fans and bringing new readers into the King universe. The task came with added layers: the release of a new blockbuster book, two film adaptations, and the author’s 70th birthday.
Following the inaugural King for a Day (2016), which won the Hodder marketing team a Book Marketing Society award, head of marketing Alice Morley and senior marketing manager Fleur Clarke conducted a thorough review, and began planning in early 2017 for September’s festivities, the focal point of which was a weekend of films and workshops at the British Film Institute. They worked closely with King’s UK editor Philippa Pride to ensure their work was consistent with King’s vision, and that he was on side.
One challenge was that King’s deep backlist could see new readers struggle to find a route into his writing. Since 70 was seen as a landmark birthday, and because the team wanted to position his new title, Sleeping Beauties, as a future classic, they decided 2017 would be the year of the blockbusters: the list of promoted titles included the iconic It, Carrie and Misery.
Morley says: "We had an enormous communications grid in the office to make sure we were promoting the right thing at the right time, that each week had a key message, and that everything was linked." They sculpted the line which brought it all together—"Seventy years. Hundreds of stories. Millions of sleepless nights"—and all other copylines "deliberately echoed each other", says Morley.
With so many fans in the trade, the industry was the first port of call, with bespoke point-of-sale created and a takeover of Hodder’s London base, Carmelite House, with screens, Carrie posters on toilet doors, a scary canteen menu—and the IT desk even became the It desk for a day. (The resulting hashtag became wildly popular, reaching beyond the publishing echo chamber).
Another goal was to exceed the initial King for a Day’s reach and engagement on Facebook. "In publishing, we care a lot about Twitter and can sometimes forget Facebook," says Clarke. King has half a million fans on the latter, so a separate King for a Day Facebook event was created, and regular content and live-event information was fed through to fans.
In the spring the Twitter approach began, and by July the first author-led emoji—a typewriter dripping with blood— emerged. The image linked through to all event and digital collateral. The team then segmented and tageted fans around the film adaptations and engaged core fans pre-release, sending them exclusives; once the films were out, they focused on new audiences who had seen the film and wanted to read the source; and there was a further avenue into the entertainment world—“‘Stranger Things’ really turned the key to ’80s nostalgia,” says Clarke. That fitted in with King’s earlier work, and so they crafted ads using a retro 1980s-style neon, and targeted fans of the Netflix drama using keywords relevant to the show.
Early planning meant that Hodder was able to work closely with the BFI to co-ordinate its Stephen King season, and providing access to King meant the team had control over much of the content. They curated 10 of King’s favourite films, and ran workshops and seminars based on the King for a Day titles. They occupied a large fan space—the Stephen Kingdom, of course—dressed in Sleeping Beauties style and, of course, kept #KingForADay running, releasing content throughout the weekend.
Asked what lessons they would take and apply to future campaigns, the duo say: "Never underestimate the power of an enormous grid!"