Some Analysis of Harlequin

As you're doubtlessly aware, Bonnie and I have been enchanted by Harlequin lately.  Their venture into computer games and emanga intrigues us, their many lines show good differentiation, and let's face it – they're making a lot of money.  Our fascinating is understandable as we two progeeks want to know what they're doing right and what we can learn from it.

So let me say from the start they seem to be a company bloody well worth studying up on.  You'll probably see more analysis of them in the future since there's probably a lot we can learn.  Yep – we've got a new Crush Object here at Fan To Pro.

So as I read up on what they've done and how they've succeeded, one of the first things that comes to mind is that they chose a good subject matter.

Romance allows a company to cover a lot of ground in the books and media it publishes. You can have angsty romance or a romantic comedy.  You can do a romance story in the modern day, ages in the past, or centuries in the future.  You can have your characters be lawyers or elves.  Romance can happen anywhere, and if you check the many Harlequin lines, there's quite a bit

Yet, with all these opportunities to do many different kinds of settings and use many ideas, the books all have a focus: romance.  It can be angsty romance or romantic comedy, passionate or tragic, but it's all romance.  Be cowboys, astronauts, or wizards the audience also knows what it's getting; a romantic story.

Harlequin's brands mean romance.  You know what you're getting in one way – but because of the many lines and possible stories, there's also a huge selection.

I think this works for Harlequin in several ways:

  • They have a specific focus so they've got strong branding and they have practice delivering what people want.  They've gotten good at it.
  • At the same time they've explored many possible ways to deliver their product – romance – and have different lines with a large variety of stories.  They deliver their specific types of stories in ways that can reach many people.
  • This balance also means that their audience has more choices within a focused set of products.  Sure they make like historical romance, but will hear of (and might get) a far-future romance.  They may like comedy but get curious about the angsty werewolf story.
  • This proper mix of focus and broad products lets Harlequin easily get into other media because they've gotten pretty good at delivering the specific interests of its audience in different ways.

Now, the question is can we learn from Harlequin?  Yes.

The problem is, and we may come back to this in posts to come, that Harlequin found a sweet spot that they know well.  This sweet spot lets them mix laser-like focus with broadly different media.  I'm not sure how many sweet spots there are out there for other businesses to emulate.

However, one thing I can say Harlequin teaches us is we better be looking for those sweet spots as they may be what we're looking for in our business and careers . . .

– Steven Savage