Friday, July 22, 2011

Goodbye Borders – Brand in search of a purpose

I received a “fond farewell” email from Borders CEO Mike Edwards, who thanked me for my support and expressed the hope that Borders would “remain in the hearts of readers for years to come.”

Yes, in our hearts right alongside the Oldsmobile, Walkman and Nobody Beats the Wiz.

Why did Borders fail? Mr. Edwards cites external reasons – a rapidly changing book industry, the eReader revolution, and a turbulent economy. Surely the merciless competition from amazon.com and Barnes & Noble (itself under pressure) were manifestations of these powerful forces.

Perhaps a clue to Borders’ failure lies in the CEO’s final message: He writes that Borders spent “40 years of igniting the love of reading in generations of customers.”

Edwards closes wistfully: “I feel privileged to have had the opportunity to lead Borders and play a role in the true and noble cause of expanding access to books and promoting the joy of reading.”

But wait. Was that what Borders did? Was “igniting the love of reading” the job of the brand? Did investors buy the stock to join “the true and noble cause of expanding access to books and promoting the joy of reading”?

To me, this sounds quaint and out of touch – like the mission of a municipal library circa 1960. Expanding access to books is low on my list of true and noble causes.

Perhaps Borders would still be in business – leading the eReader revolution and other changes instead of succumbing to them – if the company had shunned the cause of blanketing the world with books and found a more relevant and compelling reason for being.

If, for example, the brand had been about ideas instead of the physical books or useful information instead of reading, perhaps the Borders team would have been able to shape the future that amazon is now creating without them.

Brandsinger

5 comments:

Anonymous said...

Follow the money--their goods cost too damn much--especially when compared to the silent, smart, helpful, reasonably priced presence of Amazon!

But beautifully said, all the same. Now, back to my books!

brandsinger said...

Ha ha anonymous one -- Thanks for the comment.

Yes, I confess to a secret fondness for physical books too. My point was that -- from a coldly strategic view -- focusing on the physical distracting from the financial.

brandsinger

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amazon isn't that great, the prices on this black Friday were too high.

Downtown Detroit said...

So cool! Goood luck to the team! Keep on inspiring the people!

Anonymous said...

Can you give an example of what such a more relevant and compelling raison d'etre could be for a bookstore? Do you feel the same way about schools? What is not compelling about the love of reading and of books?