One rule of thumb when it comes to brand marketing is to be focused. It’s related to the adage that if you’re trying to be for everybody, you’re for nobody in the end. What consumers look for is an aspirational reflection of themselves, which is why a singular position that says who you are for and who you are not for is the one that’s most meaningful. That’s what represents a true choice.
I bring all this up because Barnes & Noble announced today that its online profit has jumped 32% and that got me thinking that B&N just might eventually usurp Amazon as the leading online book retailer. It will take some time, but Barnes & Noble has more focus than Amazon and, therefore, it more truly reflects an image of what book readers see themselves to be.
Book retailing is, of course, an interesting category at the moment with invent of electronic books, especially with the introduction of the iPad to compete with Amazon’s Kindle, B&N’s Nook and Sony’s Reader. I have no doubt these devices will take over the publishing world (my wife and one of my co-workers swear by their Kindles), so there is no doubt that change in the air.
However, B&N might be the one that emerges strongest of them all because of their focus. It’s just about books. Amazon had turned into a retail portal where you can buy a lawn mower alongside purchasing “Wolf Hall.” Sony is an appliance manufacturer (mostly known for TVs) and Apple disappointingly didn’t create anything with iPad that seemed different, better and simple (which has been its brand).
Barnes & Noble still needs help with its brand to become truly meaningful to target audiences, and I know we at Stealing Share have some ideas on that. But let’s hope B&N doesn’t go the way of trying to be Amazon. If that happens, Amazon will win. However, if B&N can keep its focus and build a brand around the highest emotional intensities with book readers, they can own the category.