One of the more interesting survivors of the technology age is Barnes & Noble, which still sells books – you know, the actual physical thing. The appearance of e-books along with the tablets that we read them on has destroyed many retailers, such as Borders.
Barnes & Noble continues to report losses, but hangs on with those losses being drips instead of floods. So it clings to life even thought the eventuality of it all means doom for the retailer down the road.
With Black Friday week coming up (yes, it’s now a week), B&N is holding what it calls Discovery Weekend Nov. 21-23 in which many activities (such as games, crafts, book readings and author appearances) are held to get consumers inside the stores. In addition, the retailer is initiating a Tweeter feed in which B&N offers gift advice.
It’s a neat tactic, but it’s not what is going to launch B&N past its troubles. The Nook, the natural reaction to the e-book revolution, hasn’t taken off and B&N simply hopes to play as a destination experience.
That’s why the Discovery Weekend makes sense, but the Barnes & Noble brand does not reflect that. The name itself comes from the last names of its founders as a printing press in 1873 and the retailer still holds onto the idea of a place to find books.
The experience of going to B&N is probably the last place it can play, adopting a Starbucks approach only with shelves of books lining the store. Its brand, therefore, needs to better reflect an experience that is different and, while I don’t usually suggest a name change, one may be in order here.
Somehow, Barnes & Noble (which I used to frequent, but don’t anymore) has to emotionally reflect those who seek an experience. In fact, the experience at B&N needs to change as well. Right now, it feels like a library with coffee and a place for teenagers to hang out while at the mall. Its audience has left (the building, of sorts) because the B&N brand lacks meaning and the experience itself is archaic.
It’s not too late as its marketers have come up with clever tactics to keep it afloat, but Barnes & Noble has initiated these without telling its target audiences why it does it. Once it does that and focuses on changing the experience, the rising tide threatening to overwhelm it will be held off more permanently.