The Marketing of Magic and Community

Houdini’s Impact

There is no doubt that Harry Houdini is the best-known magician in the world, even many years after his death in 1926. How did he become so well known? What was his promotion secret?

The Secret of Marketing

How did Houdini become an international escape artist and magician? He was a superb, world class marketer. He had an intuitive knack for conjuring up publicity stunts that the media of his time and the public could not resist. He would design and implement magical and death-defying experiences such as gathering tens of thousands of audience members, outside in a metropolis. They were drawn by such stunts as the visionary escape artist in a strait jacket, hanging upside down, somehow able to escape followed by the cheering of the crowd. And of course, at such events publicity assistants would mill around while passing out flyers announcing Houdini’s live theater performance coming up later in the day. These kinds of awareness building approaches would inevitably lead to sold out crowds for the evening’s show.

To this day, he remains a household name, and why?

WORD OF MOUTH. Tactics to build word of mouth through grabbing the attention of the public and taking them on a spectacular and emotional ride, leading to them wanting more of this wonderful feeling. This resulted i the viewers desire to see Houdini’s live magic and escape shows. In following this formula, Houdini inspired awe to such a degree that word of mouth was the logical outcome. This included people talking about the miraculous journey they had undergone first seeing his outdoor escapes and then going to Houdini’s shows. And the sharing extended to year after year of family telling family, as well as friend sharing with friend, their intrigue of this performance artist, Harry Houdini.

Post Death Promotion

Even after death, Houdini continued to receive ever building word of mouth. A prearranged wonderful and attention getting publicity stunt was carried out by the late performer’s wife, Bessie. She was seeking out psychics, asking them to divine through their mystical abilities, a code word arranged with her then living legendary husband. Although he had debunked many so-called psychics during his lifetime, Houdini still wanted to believe that mediums were real even though he could recreate any “cosmic” cosmic” demonstrations made by spiritualists to prove their powers were real.