Don’t have time to read? Try Audible.

I don’t mean for this to sound like an advertisement. But I’ll tell ya, this might sound pretty close. I suppose when you are in love with something, you want to let it be known. It’s a pleasure to share it with everyone else.

My latest pleasure is Audible.

Audible
Audible is a way to devour books if reading time is limited.

You see, I live a really busy life. In that hubbub, I’ve lost time indulging in my favorite pastime of all — reading books. As a young guy, you would never find me without a copy of something by my side. But as life progressed and my table has become more and more full, the chance for those relaxing moments happens less often.

But since I’ve been using Audible, I’ve listened to six books in two months. I just re-read Dune, listened to John Krakauer’s Missoula and I have intentions on finally listening to The Alchemist.

Audible (now owned by Amazon) is a brand that fulfills a unique need that few others have. Without much competition, save for OverDrive (a public library-based audiobook and eBook site), Audible has a need-based position locked up. (In addition, most of the audiobooks on iTunes are from Audible.)

Audible is unique, need-fulfilling brand. 

The great French general Napoleon based many of his strategies on the beliefs of human tendencies. To paraphrase within the context of branding, with careful planning and insight, you may in fact find an ally and advantage in the market leader. Brand messaging is often overlooked. Napoleon taught us that our advantage often lies in an understanding of human nature.

Audible understands human beings like me by aligning itself with a belief that learning is still important – even if we don’t have time for it. May I add, it helps that most of the books are read by actors too. (Others are sometimes read by the authors themselves.) That takes the already high level of enjoyment up a few more notches.

But enough of my yapping. I need to get back to listening.

Barnes & Noble is diluting its brand

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, the closing of America’s bookstores has saddened me. Just like streaming music has killed the music store, e-books have sucked the life out of book stores. Barnes & Noble is diluting its brand. They are just selling too much stuff.

Save for a few indie shops, Barnes and Noble is still putting up the good fight. Yet, I can’t deny that its tactics seem a little too desperate for my taste.

Barnes & Noble is diluting its brand by selling too much stuff
Here’s what a Barnes and Noble store looks like anymore.

The thing is, the store appears to be more and more like Toys R Us. Anymore, half of the store is filled with kid’s toys: Legos, games, stuffed animals, figurines — you name it. It just feels so strange to me.

Is this what B&N has stooped to, to stay alive?

Even the chain kicking off Black Friday by offering 500,000 books signed by more 100 top authors reeks of a last-ditch push to get people in the doors. My hunch is that, unless customers can meet the author in person, a signed book just isn’t all that meaningful. The experience is what should be sold, not the signature.

Equally as prominent in its Black Friday ads, though, is this: “Educational Toys & Games — Buy 1, Get 1 50% off Offer on Barnes & Noble’s Leading Selection of Educational Toys & Games.”

it makes me wonder just what the Barnes and Noble’s brand is anymore?

Right now, the store is attempting to be the jack of all trades. The problem is that it is no longer a master of one.

The in-store experience of Barnes & Noble

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.

It needs to be more than a bookseller.
It needs to be more than a bookseller.

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.

The in-store experience of Barnes & Noble

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.

It needs to be more than a bookseller.
It needs to be more than a bookseller.

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.

The increased fees of Amazon Prime is nothing to get upset about

In full disclosure, I am an Amazon Prime member. I am a member for one single reason and that is shipping. Have I used Amazon’s steaming service? Sure, but I would not cancel my Netflix subscription for it.

You see, I did a cost/benefit analysis of the price of shipping vs. the price of a prime membership and, for the amount of stuff I buy, Prime is a no brainer. It does save me money and quite a bit over the course of the year. Sure, I could choose free shipping on most things but I hate waiting and hate making others wait (especially if I waited until the last minute to order something).

amazon-prime-logoTo be fair, the increase of $20 may seem a bit excessive to some people. But for those who actually order from Amazon, it is really a marginal increase. And this is exactly what Amazon wants us to think.

As the Internet turns 25, Amazon has been around since the beginning. Of all the companies that do online retail, you could make a pretty good case that Amazon has got it figured out the best. I challenge you to find a significant number of people who have purchased something through the Internet and not shopped or purchased something directly from Amazon.

This increase should really not come as a surprise to anyone. Amazon did actually hint at it earlier. But the reality is that what Amazon has done is gotten Prime members accustomed to using its service and is now reaping the rewards of having a good service.

And yes, if you take it all together, shipping, streaming movies, and an online book store, it is a good service and a good value for the money, even at $99. There is, quite frankly, not a single service that has all of these elements.

What will be interesting to me is to see if Amazon Prime actually created brand loyalty or if consumers were only subscribers because there was no other option.

For me, I do not think it is as much about loyalty as it is about convenience. Although, in truth, I would be hard pressed to leave Amazon Prime unless it did not make economic sense anymore. We say that the true measure of brand loyalty is when consumers inconvenience themselves to use the brand.  That inconvenience could be the result of the brand being hard to access or more expensive than a substitute. The problem here is that currently there is no single substitute and nothing on Amazon is hard to get.

What Amazon is gambling on is, that for $20 extra a year, Prime members may groan for a bit but will take it on the chin and stay. Not because they love Amazon or have loyalty to it. They will stay because there is no one to switch to.

As online retailers play catch-up with Amazon, we are beginning to see more and more of them offer free shipping. Amazon has seen this coming trend, which is the reason that it has begun to develop exclusive series (ala Netflix, HBO, TNT, AMC and the like) and it has a rumored free online music service in the works, among other things, to keep Prime fresh and valuable.

I think, in the short term, Amazon Prime will be fine. But as we all know, in tech, a single advancement could change everything. It happened to Amazon 25 years ago and it could happen again.