No joke. Barnes and Noble CEO William Lynch, resigned this month. The writing was on the wall, or e-reader, well somewhere, that B&N’s digital division had failed to turn their e-readers and tablets into best sellers.
Surprise ending to this story? Well, shouldn’t have been. Not from either a financial or emotional engagement perspective. If you’ve been reading the financial reports digitally, or on old-century newsprint, you can’t have missed the fact that Nook recently reported a 34% drop in sales. If you had paged through the Brand Keys Nook emotional engagement assessments, you would have found that a real tearjerker too.
We’ve been measuring e-readers since there were e-readers. And while there are lots of categories where being first-to-market gives you a substantive advantage, and though you’re probably thinking e-readers were one of those categories, today that’s pretty much a fairytale. New technology will, of course, attract early adopters. And while they’re the ones who set the general plotline for the category, ultimately it’s the rest of us who define the specific emotional narrative thread that brands must follow if they want to show up as a marketplace best seller.
The biggest Nook flop had to do with consumer expectations for the second most-important engagement driver, ‘Organic Design’, where Nook always seemed to be playing catch-up to Apple, Kindle and Samsung and Asus, and then ran into production/supply problems.
The most-important engagement driver had to do with ‘brand value’, and the chain’s misguided efforts to merge dead-tree physical books and e-book retailing, which confused the brand tale they were trying to get the consumers to read. So for the moment, let’s edit out the design and production problems and just look at most recent ‘brand value engagement ratings (100% is the idea):
1. iPad 95%
2. Kindle 93%%
3. Samsung 90%
4. Asus 88%
5. Sony 85%
6. Nook 60%
We’re pretty sure none of you require a maths textbook to see why these ratings translate from how consumers see the Nook brand to their most-recently published financial report. Emotional engagement metrics are totally non-fiction. In fact, they are so prescient in their ability to predict consumer behavior they might very well be science fiction. Except they aren’t and they do.
Barnes and Noble said the company is reviewing its strategic plan and will be making efforts to re-write their org charts separating Nook from the brick-and-mortar stores, so we’ll have to wait to see whether that’s turns out to be fact or fiction.
But as there are books being sold, no matter the format, we feel confident in offering up some literary advice – a quote from Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar, “The fault, is not in our stars, but in ourselves.” Or in this case, the brand.
Some engagement advice: Get a better read on your brand and on understanding what consumers really expect and revise from there.
Robert Passikoff is founder and president of Brand Keys
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