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Campaign Spotlight: Hamnet

By Caitlin Davies, Danielle Hernandez and Georgia Rees

While the bulk of a book's marketing typically takes place in the weeks leading up to publication, post-publication promotion is an essential component of any strong marketing campaign. For a book to remain relevant in today’s competitive market and continue driving sales, it is crucial to look beyond the publication date. From seasonal promotions and exclusive editions to consumer reviews and targeted advertising, there are many ways to keep the conversation going after an initial release. This week we explore how the marketing team behind Hamnet have put a new spin on a classic marketing approach and continued to build buzz for the historical fiction over a year after its original publication date.

Billboard Campaigns

Billboards have been used for centuries to establish new brands and products across the globe. As a form of out-of-home advertising, they aim to attract the attention of drivers and pedestrians in highly populated locations to gain numerous views and impressions. With time and space constraints, the essence of the product must be made clear. Marketing teams must navigate the challenges of making a bold impression while simultaneously keeping the billboard simple. If effective, the billboard should be striking and capture the viewer’s attention with its branding and messaging remaining memorable long after the billboard is out of sight.

Despite being a long-standing tradition in advertising and marketing, the billboard continues to evolve. Whilst the mode of large print remains popular and effective, the billboard has taken on different forms over the years. As technology rapidly changes, digital, mechanical and interactive billboards have become commonplace in cities. Billboards are increasingly on the move, being attached to vehicles that can bring messaging to audiences directly. Even scented billboards have been invented to create a multisensory experience for passers-by.

Hamnet’s ‘living billboard’ pushes the boundaries and conventions of the billboard, which successfully created a conversation across social media regarding its originality. Devised by Jack Arts, a creative street advertising agency, they have produced various creative campaigns for current releases. Recent campaigns have included their eye-catching blue and yellow Sally Rooney mural to promote Beautiful World, Where Are You in Shoreditch, and the 3D sanitary pad adorned with red glitter to advertise the release of It’s About Bloody Time, Period by Emma Barnett. These billboards have had a lasting impression upon book lovers, and the horticultural structure used to promote Hamnet has been no different.

Hamnet’s Living Billboard

Tinder Press launched their Hamnet-inspired living billboard on Blackfriars Road in Southwark in August of this year, sixteen months after the novel’s original publication on 31 March 2020. The billboard, created by multimedia designer Samar Habib in collaboration with Jack Arts Agency, makes tangible the already iconic royal blue and white cover of O’Farrell’s standout work. As well as being emblazoned with images of the book, this piece of design-led marketing features the short, sweet and memorable title spelled out in an array of white carnations, roses, chrysanthemums and hydrangeas as a tribute to Hamnet. Interestingly, Shakespeare’s wife Agnes, a horticulturalist, is at the centre of this novel and the strong use of flowers in this campaign seems a sensitive tribute.

Hamnet has cemented its place in awards history by winning the Women’s Prize for Fiction 2020 and Waterstones Fiction Book of the Year 2020, among others. Fergus Edmonson, marketing director at Headline, explains how the tagline “the story that will live with you forever” takes inspiration from public reaction to the novel. Keeping Hamnet within public awareness so long after its initial release is an example of inspired creative marketing, riding off the back of awards success to reinvigorate the public’s opinion on the novel’s merits and inspiring new readers who may have been out of reach during the initial wave of online marketing. Tinder Press makes excellent use of word-of-mouth marketing in this campaign. Incentivising members of the public to share photographs of the display online creates a ripple effect across social media, influencing people to pick up the book themselves and even wander down to Blackfriars Road where they were gifted a Hamnet-branded bouquet of flowers.

Headline’s goal with this campaign was to “convey the feeling that [Hamnet] is a beautifully written modern masterpiece” and this elaborate floral display did just that.

As we continue to see Hamnet on social media and talked about amongst friends and colleagues, it becomes impossible to ignore the incredible lifespan this book has managed to achieve. Headline’s innovative marketing strategies have helped contribute to this impressive longevity. Publication day is no longer the end goal; if we want readers to be reading a book for years to come, a creative post-publication campaign is going to be incredibly valuable.


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