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The Magical Marketing of Livraria Lello
Livraria Lello

A new business we like opens in the neighbourhood, be it a restaurant or shop, providing an offering seemingly unmatched by local competitors. However, as time passes, the quality fades, or the neighbourhood didn’t support the founder’s ambitions… and so, the business shutters.

I hate it when this happens, especially to places I enjoy… Why didn’t others in the area resonate with it? How come they didn’t see what I saw? Did they even experience it?

Here’s the thing: the entrepreneur behind that business might have had a great concept, serving a niche craving, but they missed a vital ingredient. They didn’t attach that irresistible ‘feeling,’ ‘status,’ or ‘experience’ to their venture. To most folks, they were just another shop in town.

If you have a physical location, the objective is for the general public and prospective customers to know “this is where ________ happened” or “this is where _________ happens.” Or, “this is where I’ll experience ________.”

It’s all about linking your business to an event or emotion that sticks in people’s minds, making them crave to be part of it. In this social media-driven era, that’s the ticket to success.

Attaching to the Intangible

Attaching your company to an event (present or historical) or emotion (nostalgia is a powerful one) is the ultimate form of marketing. It should be clout-worthy to be in your shop; an experience… something they can ‘share.’

Let me illustrate this point with a fantastic example: Livraria Lello in Porto, Portugal. This bookstore is so famous that people line up for hours every day just to get inside. While most other bookstores are shutting down, this one is thriving.

Livraria Lello

My family and I just got back from Portugal, and while there, we visited the city of Porto. In Porto is a very famous, perhaps the most famous in the world, bookstore — known as Livraria Lello.

Approaching the bookstore, I saw multiple lines stretching across the street, each behind a sign showing a different time—12:00 PM, 12:30 PM, 1:00 PM, and so on. People were itching to get in this bookstore as if it was the hottest club in town.

Bear in mind it’s no bigger than 2,500 square feet. It’s an unassuming store tucked among numerous other shops on a busy street.

From all the social posts I had seen about the store in the past, it looked like a magical place: Red flooring up a spiralling staircase, and floor-to-ceiling dark wooden bookshelves throughout. I was looking forward to getting inside…

So, I forked over the 20 euro to skip the egregious lines… it was probably the most ridiculous tourist thing to do in Porto. Still, the entrepreneur in me wanted to see what was so special about this place besides the decor.

It was an opportunity to learn about world-class marketing whilst hopefully finding a rare book only available on that side of the globe.

I experienced something different… the bookshelves and spiralling staircase were novel, but most books were typical of what you may find at your local Barnes & Noble.

Beautifully designed, but what is the real reason people come from all over the world to see this bookstore?
Shoulder to shoulder. It was packed!
Everyone (myself included) was snapping pictures of the place…

I could barely move inside; it was shoulder to shoulder, with hundreds of people taking pictures and a few looking for books.

So why were they there?

Here’s the magic: Livraria Lello attached itself to a fantastic work of art — inspiration for J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter series.

The store’s allure was really about stepping foot in a place that inspired elements of Harry Potter… While living in Porto in the 90s, Livraria Lello apparently inspired J.K. Rowling, and the shop’s unique features/decor are believed to have influenced the portrayal of the Hogwarts Library.

That’s why an estimated half a million people visit and pay to get in, every year… they want to say they’ve been to Livraria Lello (clout-worthy); or it’s nostalgic for Harry Potter fans (emotion)… or they’re checking off a sight to see (historical experience).

Entrepreneurial Lesson From Livraria Lello’s Popularity

Success lay not just in what we offer, but in the story we share, the emotion we evoke, and the magic we believe we’ve created.

With Livraria Lello as our entrepreneurial lesson, it reminds us that the most potent form of marketing is not just about selling a product but about enchanting people with an emotional/nostalgic experience.

Stay hungry,