5 book marketing lessons we can take from Easter traditions
Writing a book is often compared to the birthing process (especially by women who’ve been through it). Interestingly, the word Lent (the 40-day observance leading up to Easter in many Christian traditions) means spring, a time of renewal, birth and fertility. It is not surprising, then, that many of the things that have come to symbolize Easter – in Western culture and around the world – are in some way tied to the concept of renewal or rebirth. Here are 5 traditional Easter symbols and specific book marketing lessons you can take from them.
1. Easter Bunny
Known to be prolific with their offspring, rabbits are an ancient symbol of fertility and new life. According to some sources, the addition of the hare (rabbit) into Easter customs appears to have originated in Germany, where tales were told of an “Easter hare” (Osterhase) who laid eggs for children to find. German immigrants brought the tradition with them to America – particularly Pennsylvania – and the custom spread across the U.S. The Germans also baked cakes for Easter in the shape of hares, which may have ushered in the practice of making chocolate bunnies and eggs.
MARKETING LESSON: Be prolific with your marketing. Leave eggs (marketing materials) in your wake everywhere you go.
2. Easter Eggs
Another ancient symbol of new life, the egg has long been associated with pagan spring festivals. Easter eggs are likely linked to these pagan traditions. Decorating eggs for Easter is a tradition that dates back to at least the 13th century, according to some sources. Eggs were a forbidden food during Lent in Medieval Europe, so any eggs laid during that time were boiled or otherwise preserved. Across history, the egg has been dyed, painted, adorned and embellished in the celebration of continuing life, often eaten on Easter to mark the end of Lenten penance and fasting. Today, Easter eggs are still an incredibly popular symbol of new life in Serbia, Bulgaria, Russia, Romania, Ukraine, Poland and other Slavic countries’ folk traditions.
MARKETING LESSON: Easter eggs range from plain to highly decorated, but it’s just the shell that gets colored. When it comes to your book cover, “decorate” it appropriately. Too much color or too many images can make the cover busy and actually detract from your potential sales. Your best bet is to hire a professional designer. If you cannot afford a pro, do your homework. Head to the bookstore or hit up Amazon to look at other books in your genre for ideas of what to do and what NOT to do. The first sign of a self-published book is a cover that’s simply a background image with the title text just haphazardly plopped down over it.
3. Jelly Beans and Peeps
Second only to Halloween, Easter is one of America’s best-selling candy holidays. Among the most popular sweet treats associated with this day are jelly beans and Peeps. Jelly beans are believed to be a combination of the soft, chewy Middle Eastern sweet known as Turkish Delight and the hard candy shell of Jordan Almonds. The earliest reference to jelly beans has been associated with Boston confectioner William Schrafft, who urged citizens to send his jelly beans to Union soldiers during in the Civil War. The candy became a widespread American treat in the early 20th century, and by the 1930s, their popular association with Easter had taken hold, likely due to their general egg shape.
In 1953, the Just Born candy company produced a handmade candy marshmallow chick. Loving the look of the candy, Bob Born (son of Just Born founder, Sam Born) had a machine built that could mass-produce marshmallow chicks, which he trademarked Peeps. Just Born soon became the largest marshmallow candy manufacturer in the world. In the 1960s, Just Born began manufacturing seasonally shaped Marshmallow Peeps, and in the early 1980s, the company released the Marshmallow Peeps Bunny.
MARKETING LESSON: Jelly beans and Peeps are Easter icons. People know them and look forward to them as part of the Easter celebration (although the Jelly Belly Candy Company has made gourmet jelly beans more universally available). What can you do that will brand your book similarly? For instance, you can recognize the For Dummies books a mile away. Is there an icon, color, logo, typeface, or other symbol you can universally apply so that people not only recognize your book because of it, but look forward to your books because of their emotional association with that symbol?
4. Easter Parade
The Easter parade tradition in New York City dates back to the mid-1800s, when high society folks would attend Easter services at various Fifth Avenue churches and then stroll down the Avenue afterward, showing off their new spring outfits and hats. Soon, average citizens started showing up along Fifth Avenue to watch them stroll. The tradition reached its peak by 1948 when the popular film Easter Parade was released, starring Fred Astaire and Judy Garland. The title song includes the lyrics: “In your Easter bonnet, with all the frills upon it/You’ll be the grandest lady in the Easter parade.”
Though the Easter parade tradition lives on in Manhattan, with Fifth Avenue being closed off to traffic from 49th Street to 57th Street, the event has no religious significance. However, it is believed that after their baptisms, early Christians wore white robes all through Easter week to indicate their new lives, and in Medieval Europe, churchgoers would take a walk after Easter Mass, led by a crucifix or the Easter candle
MARKETING LESSON: The point of today’s Easter parade? Showing off. So follow their lead by showing off your new book in grand fashion. Throw a party, stage a reading, hire a band, invite dignitaries. Whatever makes sense to you – just do it up right. And then TELL PEOPLE about it. Use media releases, social media, and call on all your friends and associates to get involved and spread the word.
5. Easter Lilies
Since the beginning of time, lilies have played significant roles in allegorical tales about motherhood. Roman mythology links the lily to Juno, queen of the gods. According to the legend, as Juno was nursing her son Hercules, excess milk fell from the sky. Part of the milk remained above the earth (creating the group of stars known as the Milky Way), but the remainder fell to the earth, creating lilies. According to another tradition, the lily sprang from the repentant tears of Eve as she was sent out of Paradise after the Tree of Knowledge episode.
In America, the Easter lily industry is a commercial success story. Prior to World War II, the U.S. imported the majority of Easter lily bulbs from Japan. At that point, production shifted to the U.S., which was able to grow bulbs of superior quality to those previously produced in Japan. Today more than 95 percent of all bulbs grown for the potted Easter lily market are produced by just 10 farms in a narrow coastal region along the California-Oregon border. The Easter Lily bulbs are harvested in the fall, then packed and shipped to commercial greenhouses where they are planted in pots and forced under controlled conditions to bloom for the Easter holiday.
MARKETING LESSON: Just because there’s already someone out there writing in your genre doesn’t mean you can’t make significant inroads there. Scott Adams, creator of the Dilbert cartoon, wanted desperately to be the most famous cartoonist in the world. At the time, there were three heavy hitters ahead of him in the cartoon fame game: Gary Larson (The Far Side), Berk Breathed (Bloom County), and Bill Watterson (Calvin and Hobbes). In order for Adams to make it to the top, he would have to supersede all three of those geniuses. So he posted affirmations all over his house and car and office, which he repeated, nonstop: “I am the most famous cartoonist in the world.” And then it happened: one by one, Larson, Breathed, and Watterson put the caps on their markers and ended their meteoric runs. I don’t know if Adams is the most famous in the world, but he’s sure made a huge name for himself. Create a great book, have confidence, and market your butt off. There’s room for more than one great book on your topic.
EASTER AROUND THE WORLD
Perhaps you can also take a lesson or idea from some of these Easter traditions from around the world.
Easter in Ireland: In Ireland, people dance in the streets on Easter Sunday. The dancers compete for the prize of a cake.
Easter in Italy: In Italy pretzels were originally an Easter food. The twisted shape is supposed to represent arms crossed in prayer.
Easter in Australia: In Australia the Australians prefer the bilbyas the symbol for Easter as it is native to
Australia and also because of the fact that the rabbit has destroyed land, crops, vegetation and burrows of other native Australian species.
Easter in Russia: In Russia, pussy willow branches are picked especially for Easter. People tap each other with them for good luck.
Easter in Egypt: Easter Monday is a public holiday because of an ancient spring festival which is celebrated on this day. People spend the day outdoors in parks or gardens and exchange colored eggs.
Easter in Ethiopia: The Ethiopian Easter festival is called Fassika. During all their holidays, Ethiopians eat a special sourdough bread called dabo. Families bake enough to offer a slice to everybody who visits the house. On Easter morning, the bread should be cut, after saying a prayer, by a priest or by the main man of the house.
Easter in the Czech Republic: They celebrate both Easter Monday as well as Easter Sunday. The traditional name for Easter Monday is Whipping Monday, because on this day the village boys playfully swat the girls with pussywillow switches – intended to chase away bad spirits – while reciting an Easter carol. The girls would then reward the boys with painted eggs or candy and tie ribbons around their switches. In modern times, Easter Monday is a day for open house, when anybody and everybody is likely to drop in. Greetings are exchanged and fruits and cakes are served. It is traditional to serve guests small glasses of plum brandy.
Happy Easter and happy marketing!
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