21 November 2006

A Lifetime Supply of Koontz

Bantam is getting a fair amount of industry press for advertising Dean Koontz's Odd Thomas series during the CSI TV shows. Given the price for a commercial during a top-rated series, that advertising effort is probably well beyond the entire marketing budget for an average trade title.

Of course, Koontz is already a bestselling author, and has been for years. We might say he doesn't need the advertising dollars, but in fact he's one of the few authors for whom high-expense advertising might make sense.

Among the biggest challenges in marketing an individual book is that a family can buy a lifetime supply of that product for $10-$40. In fact, a well manufactured book can last for generations. That severely limits the potential return from advertising an individual title.

The return on investment in advertising can be higher for big-price items, like cars, and for products that people buy and replenish over many years, such as a particular soap or cereal. With soap and cereal (and cars as well), marketers try to build "brand loyalty," in which the same family keeps buying the same product. An individual bar of soap costs much less than an individual book, but a few bars every few months over several years builds up into real money--while that individual book sits on the shelf, just as satisfying as it was before.

Which brings us back to Koontz. He writes lots of books, and they're rather similar. Not identical, of course, but more like different scents of detergent than like a bottle of detergent and a bottle of antifreeze. As a result, Bantam has lots of Koontz books it can sell to the same customers. That's how I think these TV ads are meant to work: they aim to create Koontz "brand loyalty" so that one or two or even three books won't be a reader's lifetime supply.

Another interesting aspect of Bantam's ads is that they don't make clear until the end that the product they're selling is (gasp!) books. They might thus intrigue people who like stories, but feel nervous around books.

No comments: