50 shades of marketing – The reason for an incomprehensible success revealed


Say you’ve just become the world’s biggest “literary” phenomenon this side of Harry Potter and The Da Vinci code, and you are enjoying a pretty sweet life. You lost count of how many million books you sold already, you got your multimillion movie deals, and the product placement checks for all the stuff you mentioned by name in your story are flowing in as planned. So what now?

If you are managing E.L. James’ 50 shades of Grey, you go for the kill by selling the merchandising rights for just about any conceivable item you can think of. In the last 48 hours, in example, I received press releases informing that Freeze Clothing is releasing 50 Shades T-shirts and sweatshirts, Hyp will take care of garter belts and panty hoses and Briefly Stated is in charge of underwear and pajamas (‘hot BDSM pajama action’… how charming!). You will be forgiven if you never heard of these definitely low couture brands before.

The horror continues at the newsstand, where Fifty Shades Of American Women Who Love The Book And Live The Life is apparently selling like a proverbial hotcake despite having a cover plagiarizing Entertainment Weekly and rather appalling contents – including the recipe for said hotcake, as the trick to ‘release your inner goddess’ seems to be being an old-fashioned housewife. The others are, if you’re wondering: ‘Try yoga’, ‘Take a run’, ‘Go belly dancing’, ‘Jump on the bike’ and ‘Go hiking’. Which is exactly where I send anyone mentioning inner goddesses myself. The magazine also threatens a fourth installment in the book series, by the way.

While you are waiting for that catastrophe you can also spend your time listening to the mommy porn equivalent of those suspicious dirt-cheap music “anthologies” usually sold in freeway service stations worldwide. You know, the type composed of a haphazard mess of out-of-copyright tunes and/or sleazy Fausto Papetti stuff?
Enter Fifty Shades of Grey: The Classical Album, or “a beautician’s idea of an amazingly refined selection of deep, sensuous music”. Of which, by the way, Mrs. James is not guilty. In fact, you can peruse her astonishingly un-sexy actual musical tastes via her public playlist on YouTube.

Considering the revenue implications of the full Fifty shades marketing operation for the publishers’ coffers, I am eventually beginning to grasp why on Earth somebody bothered to finance the absurdly humungous promotion of the trilogy in the first place. I am still waiting, however, for the musical.