Campaign Spotlight: The Light We Carry
By Caitlin Davies, Danielle Hernandez and Georgia Rees
Following the success of Michelle Obama's powerful autobiography Becoming published in 2018, the former First Lady from the southside of Chicago brings us more of her wit and wisdom in a second book The Light We Carry, a hopeful guide offering readers insightful philosophies and practical advice for overcoming adversity.
With such a strong public personality behind these pages it is no surprise this new release has been promoted across many social media platforms. Michelle has utilised her own following on Instagram and Twitter to post about the book, share footage of her unboxing the first hardback copy and interact with the global community of readers she claims as the inspiration for this new project. Penguin Random House imprint Viking Books UK have taken the opportunity to spread the word on their own channels too, teasing readers with excerpts and inspirational quotes. However, digital marketing was just the starting point for this widely anticipated release. In this article we explore some of the out-of-house marketing strategies Penguin Random House have used in their extensive campaign for The Light We Carry.
Michelle’s autobiography Becoming was one of Waterstones’ biggest selling books of 2019. In an effort to encourage more preorders, Penguin Random House partnered with Waterstones on an ambitious pre-order campaign, offering a lucky winner a trip to Chicago and tickets for a live event taking place in Michelle’s hometown and their very own signed copy.
Drawing on the main themes of the book, Penguin General put together an extensive events campaign beginning on 15 November and continuing through until the 27th. Black voices have been at the heart of this campaign, and a partnership with Black Ballad, a UK media platform for Black women, has resulted in an exciting and thoughtful series of online and in-person events. A trio of free Zoom workshops, focusing on parenting with resilience, finding a work-life balance, and becoming a force for good, were designed to reflect the themes of the book and to help Black women to be the best versions of themselves.
The events programme culminated in an all-day self-care festival in partnership with Dark Matter marketing agency, at Waterstones Piccadilly. Taking place on 27 November, the festival included a panel and book club discussion on the issues raised in the book, a floristry workshop using Michelle’s favourite flowers, mobile beauty treatments, a writing workshop with Black Ballad’s CEO, Tobi Oredien, and a live podcast session with the creators of Your Aunties Could Never on the importance of sisterhood. Throughout the day, visitors could receive complimentary mocktails and goodie bags, and a kids’ craft area encouraged children to create inspirational affirmation boards.
Whilst all of this is taking place in the UK, over in America, Michelle is embarking on a state-wide tour moderated by some of her fabulous celebrity friends, including Tracee Ellis Ross, Tyler Perry, Ellen Degeneres, David Letterman, and Oprah. The tour begins on 15 November and runs right through until 13 December.
Accompanying an exciting calendar of promotional events, the marketing team for The Light We Carry devised a series of eye-catching digital billboards for its publication.
After the success of Becoming, Michelle’s second book focuses upon personal wisdom and insight. During uncertain times, receiving inspiration from the former First Lady undoubtedly has appeal. Across Viking’s social media channels, inspirational quotes were shared to tease the book, including “we become bolder in brightness.” These quotes were also an instrumental part of the outdoor campaign for The Light We Carry. The Bookseller reported on “an ambitious outdoor campaign” curated for the book’s “extensive marketing campaign.” Several advertising spots visually transitioned from day to night, in keeping with the themes of “light” and “brightness.” This transition revealed hidden messages to passers-by, tying together the digital and social media elements. Coveted spots in areas of high footfall also displayed the book, including sites across the London Underground and National Rail services. The marketing team did not skimp on size, with large digital billboards and printed posters appearing nationwide. This included Waterloo Motion, an impressive digital space stretching “across five train platforms” (The Bookseller).
Arguably the most impressive element of the outdoor campaign is the use of the Marble Arch to promote the title. This prominent London landmark is visited by thousands each year and is highly regarded for its architectural design. In this prominent location, any promotional activities would be hard to miss. Viking went above and beyond the traditional conventions of outdoor advertising, projecting The Light We Carry onto the arch’s exterior. Outdoor projections are becoming increasingly popular in recent years, as advancements in technology improve the visual quality of this marketing technique. Recent viral campaigns have ranged from projections by campaign group Led By Donkeys onto the Houses of Parliament, to messages projected onto Twitter’s headquarters following Elon Musk’s takeover. Projections however have been traditionally underused in publishing campaigns.
Yet following a successful campaign for The Light We Carry’s, can we expect a new trend of outdoor projections and innovative use of space for future frontlist titles?