Branding Beat - Cut Through the Noise

ABC’s ‘Castle’: An Immersive Brand Experience

Interesting news from the New York Times Best Sellers list: Heat Rises, a book written by a character from ABC’s Castle, has debuted as the number one selling book in the hardcover fiction category.

Yep, you read that right. “Written by a character.”

For those of you that watch Castle, this statement doesn’t shock you. For those of you that don’t, the show revolves around an author named Richard Castle who partners with New York Homicide Detective Kate Beckett to solve crimes. He uses her as inspiration for his books and actually helps solve cases.

But let me elaborate about Castle’s ingenious brand integration.

It isn’t enough that you just watch ABC’s show. They want you to connect with the characters, follow the title character on social media, and buy their merchandise. And I don’t just mean picking up a fan-designed TV shirt from their CafePress store, I mean buying one of Richard Castle’s books.

Richard Castle social media

Looks like Castle is about to tweet something.

Even though Richard Castle is a character on a TV show, ABC has released three novels and one graphic novel under the character’s name. Not Nathan Fillion (the actor who plays Castle), not someone from the writing staff, just the character, Richard Castle. ABC has also gone the extra mile to get him a Twitter account, Facebook page, completely fleshed-out website with synopses of all of the his books and blog posts, and author page on Hyperion Books’ website.

So ABC has taken fiction, placed it into reality, and then brings it back to fiction. There’s hardly an episode in Castle when one of his novels isn’t mentioned. There are a few instances where Castle specifically mentions tweeting things that are posted on the character’s Twitter account.

How does the show do all of this brand integration without breaking their marketing budget? Twitter and Facebook are free, the Richard Castle website is an extension of the Castle show page, and there are perks for having your show on a Disney-owned network. Hyperion Books, the publisher of the Castle novels, is owned by Disney. Marvel, the publisher of the Castle-penned graphic novel, is also owned by Disney.

I know, you’re wondering how this applies to you and your business. While we would all love to have Disney’s multimedia resources, we can still follow the Castle model of success with the resources we do have.

Give customers options to interact with your brand. Designing a user-friendly website is a great start, but take it a step further and create a Facebook page and Twitter account. Start a blog, post frequently, and give it a featured spot on your homepage. Film a YouTube video and put it on your “About Us” page. Try and reply to tweets and wall posts as frequently as you can without becoming overkill – people love recognition!

Mayhem on Facebook

Mayhem: He’s the cup of coffee right next to your keyboard the second after you hear a loud noise.

Let your customers connect with your “characters.” Does your brand have a mascot? If so, consider creating a Twitter account or Facebook page just for your mascot. Besides Rick Castle, characters from The Office have Twitter accounts, Colonel Tribune of the Chicago Tribune has an account, and Mayhem from the Allstate commercials has over one million fans on Facebook.

If you don’t think your mascot is ready to take the leap to an individual account, have him “take over” your Twitter or Facebook account for a week. No mascot? Then solicit articles for your blog from different employees in your company to give your blog a fresh perspective and introduce the employees to your readers.

Take advantage of what you have. I won’t rehash too much of what Jana said, but make sure that you are using every single one of your resources. I’m not just talking about using equipment and software that you already own, but also find out what hidden talents your employees have. Maybe one of your customer service reps is amazing at graphic design, or perhaps your accountant has a brilliant idea to streamline invoicing. You know that Castle won’t stop until it taps into each of Disney’s resources, so make what you have work for you.

Creating an immersive brand experience like Castle is difficult, but the payout is great. Fans feel more connected with your brand and will be much more likely to use your services or products in the future. Connecting with your client base is absolutely key.

Now that Heat Rises has landed a number one spot on the New York Times Best Seller list, I’m willing to bet that Castle will get an early renewal for their fifth season. Another season means another book, and so the cycle continues…

Are you familiar with Castle and their immersive branding practices? Know of any other shows or brands that have a similar model? If so, what are some of the techniques they use?



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  1. amy

    As you already know Mandy, I love Castle! My Monday nights aren’t complete without Castle and Beckett, and Ryan, Esposito, Martha, and Alexis 🙂

    I kind of want to read “Richard’s” books, but I feel that I might O.D on the Castle concept and will get tired of it. The idea though of the brand integration is very interesting.

    As for other brands that have done this, you just have to look at Disney and Nickelodeon. It seems like every week there’s a new ‘Hannah Montana’ or boy band show that has CDs available for sale. Crazy stuff.

    Excellent post Mandy!

    • Mandy Kilinskis

      I think it’s impossible to OD on the Castle concept! My parents and I have read all of the books and we’re still watching the show. We like them because they have parallel plot points to the show and allusions to Firefly. They’re not the best books ever written (though they are getting better), but they’re certainly an enjoyable, easy read.

      And I had forgotten about Nickelodeon. The boy band Big Time Rush seems to be super popular with the tweens.

      • amy

        Now that I’m thinking about it, I think every era has seen a band that has a TV show and also goes on concerts and releases CDs.

        1960’s: ‘The Monkees’
        1970’s: ‘The Partridge Family’
        1980’s: ‘Josie and the Pussycats’
        1990’s: ‘S Club 7’
        2000’s: ‘Hannah Montana’ and ‘Big Time Rush’

        Now that’s crazy!!!

        • Mandy Kilinskis

          Don’t forget 2ge+her. I have both of their CDs and if MTV would ever release the show 9and re-release the movie) on DVD, I’d own that, too.

  2. Rachel

    Great post, Mandy! I knew that the character had books and a graphic novel, but I didn’t know about all his social media efforts–or the fact that a book by a fake person made it to the top of the best sellers list. Wow! I also love the idea of the character’s tweets being referred to on the show itself. I should really watch ‘Castle’ more often. I’m not sure why I fail so miserably at following this show, when (1) I love Nathan Fillion, (2) I enjoy the show when I happen to catch it on TV, and (3) all this awesome online stuff and fake-real books exist. I guess I’m just lazy, haha.

    Have you read any of the Castle books? Are they legitimately good?

    • Mandy Kilinskis

      Yeah, stop failing. Monday nights at 9 pm. Castle. Watch it. It’s really a great interaction of social media and TV and print. As I’m interested in all of those things, it makes me really excited.

      I have read the Castle books. The first one isn’t that great, but the crime in it is pretty interesting. They keep getting better stylistically and creatively. In the second book, Nikki Heat sent detectives Malcolm and Reynolds out to canvas the neighborhood. I smirked to myself and giggled a little when I read it. I still haven’t read the graphic novel, but I’d like to.

      • Rachel

        Malcolm and Reynolds, teehee! I’ve seen on Youtube some of the Firefly references the show has done … I love that they do that. Great to hear it’s in the books too. 🙂

  3. david k waltz


    I would not have thought that a fictional character could create fiction and others would buy it, but I suppose it goes to show that anything is possible. After all, a lot of the kids all went to Hannah Montanna concerts back in the day.

    I wonder if there is a pariticular market, segment, demographic, niche, etc. where this is more effective than others?


    • Mandy Kilinskis

      Morning, David!

      Since the main character is a writer and you hear all about his work, it’s great that ABC has expanded into actual print. It lets people take part in the show in between seasons or viewings.

      As for a particular market, I think it would just depend on the original source. Kids love Hannah Montana, older viewers like Castle. I think that as long as you find the right demographic and the right medium to spill into it, you can be sitting on branding gold.

  4. Bret Bonnet

    I can’t believe this show is still on the air!

    My mother-in-law thinks the main actor is SUPER hot. Kind of gross if you ask me.

  5. Joseph Giorgi

    I haven’t seen the show, so I can’t say whether I’m a fan or not. 😉

    But I love when fiction crosses over into reality. Such an ingenious way to run a promotion. Whether it’s augmented reality games or tie-in items like the “Richard Castle” books, I love the inherent creativity involved.

    Actually, Showtime ran a very similar real-life promotion for their show Californication. They published a book called God Hates Us All, which, in the first season of the show, is the book written by David Duchovny’s character. The author’s name on the actual book was the character’s name from the show as well.

    Such a cool concept.

    Great post, Mandy!

    • Mandy Kilinskis

      First of all, you just won some epic comment points. 🙂

      That’s cool that Showtime did that! Even though you’re not a big fan, Parks and Recreation just did something similar. Amy Poehler’s character just wrote a book about Pawnee, Indiana. Leslie Knope also has an author page on Hyperion Books, which I think is awesome.

      It’s just another way for passionate and literate fans to get involved in their favorite shows!

  6. Casey Andel

    Thanks for all your efforts that you have put in this. Very interesting information. “Laugh at yourself first, before anyone else can.” by Elsa Maxwell.

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