Is Blockbuster Still A Brand Without Its Stores? - InformationWeek

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Commentary
11/25/2008
10:22 AM
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Is Blockbuster Still A Brand Without Its Stores?

Blockbuster is rolling out an on-demand device (and service) that lets its customers rent videos without visiting stores. I wonder if anybody will care.

Blockbuster is rolling out an on-demand device (and service) that lets its customers rent videos without visiting stores. I wonder if anybody will care.Even though it was founded on a crazy new technology of videotape, the brand has always been about retail. Through its heyday of the late '80s/early '90s, Blockbuster bought up the shops that had opened to exploit the new medium. Then it Holiday Inn-ified the customer experience, closing the X-rated sections (beaded curtains and bad lighting, anybody?), and outfitting its store associates in clean blue shirts, khakis, and family-friendly smiles.

There was, and still is for many consumers, a benefit to the I/O mechanism of aimlessly strolling past racks of little movie posters. Depleted stacks convey popularity. A blunt alpha structure is often a surprise me revelation of titles and/or genres. Warnings and recommendations occur both impromptu and anonymously, whether with fellow patrons or store staffers, so the place already is built on social media experiences.

So what does the Blockbuster brand bring to the technology of a little gizmo that sits next to your TV and delivers movies on-demand? Better movies? More of them? Does it get them earlier than its competitors? Will the prices be consistently better, or its I/O experience substantively better than others (and not just different)?

Blockbuster didn't invent the technology that drove its past business successes, but it certainly created the mechanism to distribute it. So I say there's a serious business strategy that would suggest the company should find ways to innovate and recharge its business model, and not necessarily presume that it's kaput and needs to be replaced.

I'm just not sure that its expertise is relevant to on-demand digital downloads. Will anybody care that it wants to be a brand without its stores?

Jonathan Salem Baskin writes the Dim Bulb blog, and is the author of Branding Only Works On Cattle.

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