By Caitlin Davies, Danielle Hernandez and Georgia Rees
Founded in 2004 by Jo Henry and Alastair Giles, the Book Marketing Society is an organisation aiming to represent marketing and communications professionals working in the British book publishing industry. As part of their ongoing efforts to celebrate marketing excellence and spread inspiration across their network of members, the BMS hosts an award showcase every quarter to reward imaginative, effective and innovative marketing campaigns. A panel of judges compare the impact, strategy, audience growth and return on investment between each campaign submitted, to ultimately highlight one winner that stood out from the crowd, with that winner automatically being entered for The Bookseller British Book Awards Marketing Strategy of the Year (Nibbies). The showcase explores commercial creativity across all genres of publishing with categories ranging from adult fiction to academic and reference. The selection includes debut campaigns, multi-title marketing campaigns and a category for guerrilla campaigns on a smaller budget, encouraging people to acknowledge not just the large names in the industry, but the creative talent at independent organisations as well. This week we took a look at the winner and highly commended campaigns chosen in a few of the award categories.
Multi-Title Campaign Category
Devising a clever marketing campaign is no easy feat, and multi-title campaigns present a whole different set of challenges. How do you engage audiences and pique their interest for each title you wish to promote? Highly Commended in this category was The First Ever BookTok Creator House. Established by Fleur Clarke and Sian Richefond of HarperFiction, this campaign utilised the power of TikTok to promote new titles and establish connections with 'BookTokers.' The judges were impressed by the high levels of views and social engagement, praising Clarke and Richefond for managing “to generate an authentic experience for BookTokers which resulted in highly engaging videos posted on their channels and Voyager’s newly created account” (BMS).
The winner of this category was Heartstopper, a YA graphic novel series which was adapted for the screen by Netflix in 2022. Initially published as a webcomic, there are now four volumes in the Heartstopper series, with the fifth volume due to publish in 2023. The series has been praised for its positive representation of LGBTQIA+ young people, mental health and coming of age.
The Heartstopper campaign, created by Krissi Hill and Beth McWilliams of Hachette Children’s was wide-reaching, using the series’ existing popularity around the release of the television adaptation, whilst engaging with a bigger audience through a variety of avenues. The panel recognised this as one of the campaign’s main strengths, finding it to be “an incredible brand management exercise with a number of different stakeholders involved and excellent retail activation…the social outreach via content creators across all platforms was carefully executed, and the judges were also impressed by the audience development element” (BMS). The judges also recognised the impressive Waterstones Bedroom installation, where a section of protagonist Charlie Spring’s bedroom was on display in the Piccadilly branch. Initially intended for one week, the bedroom remained for the entire summer, and was extremely popular with visitors.
Adult Non-Fiction Category
It was another year of fabulous non-fiction campaigns, and the winner of this category went to the team behind Jonathan Freedland’s biography of the inspiring Rudolf Vrba. The Escape Artist tells the story of the nineteen-year-old Jewish man who broke out of Auschwitz and exposed the Nazi killing regime to the world. Alice Graham of John Murray Press was the marketing genius behind this low-budget campaign, and, despite the well-saturated World War Two literary market, managed to get this book onto everyone’s wishlists, with The Escape Artist becoming a Sunday Times bestselling title and subsequently being shortlisted for the coveted Baillie Gifford prize. The Escape Artist’s success benefited from a targeted social media campaign, a standout feature being the movie-esque digital advert which was shared across the publisher’s and large retailers’ channels, encouraging pre-orders and introducing viewers to Vrba’s story. Waterstones also picked up Freedland’s release as a focus title, with many stores having dedicated displays and customers being encouraged to pre-order prior to release day.
Highly commended in this category went to Tom Parker’s posthumous autobiography, Hope, which soared into the bestsellers lists in its first week of publication. Jessica Tackie, of Bonnier imprint Blink, conducted this emotional campaign with inspiring sensitivity. Hope tells of Parker’s life, growing up in Bolton to becoming a member of the hit boyband The Wanted and, come 2020, being diagnosed with a stage IV glioblastoma. This was another campaign that made excellent use of digital marketing, with a beautifully put together ad with clips and images of Tom overlaid with messages from his bandmates that was posted on publication day, just two months after Parker’s death. It was this film that was used to market the book throughout the campaign and spread the message of Hope that Tom wished for everyone to hear.
If you would like to see the full list of marketing campaigns highlighted in this season's awards showcase, we highly encourage you to check out the @BMSoc website and social media platforms.