Reviving Best Buy through brand

October 24, 2012

How does Best Buy evolve from its roots as the “best in the world at selling consumer electronics to millions of people” to an organization that meets the needs of today’s consumers and differentiates itself from today’s retailers?

We’re currently preparing to move. Much to my surprise, this move has become synonymous with television shopping. Apparently, the “man-rule” states that one’s television must both be the most technology-advanced option on the market while also being the exact appropriate size for the space available. We are moving to a larger home. It seems the 32” screen does not meet minimum room size to screen size ratio. And so, consumer electronics retailers have become a staple of my life.

In the process, I have become intrigued by the varying options for shopping for televisions and consumer electronics, in general. Online. Offline. Generalists. Specialists. Low price. Hi-touch. No longer does Best Buy or PC Richards own the market. Today these specialist brick and mortar stores are competing with low-price generalists both online and offline in the form of Walmart, Target and Amazon. For the consumer, not only is the product selection overwhelming, but so is the decision of how to shop.

One company who has not done well in breaking through the clutter to attract positive consumer attention is Best Buy. The company’s track record of success over the nearly 50 years since its founding has been all but obliterated by store closings, layoffs, management turnover and diminishing profitability. Though outlasting many of its competitors, Best Buy seems on the precipice of its own demise. And the poor quality of the in-store experience does little to counter the cavalcade of negative news.

The Question
How does Best Buy evolve from its roots as the “best in the world at selling consumer electronics to millions of people” to an organization that meets the needs of today’s consumers and differentiates itself from today’s retailers?

Breaking the question down, the first step is to better understand what consumers want from consumer electronics outlets and the retail experience overall:

Then, we look toward what Best Buy does well to distinguish itself:

The Answer
With the odds stacked against it, Best Buy needs to look toward brand. Let the branding process identify the real point of differentiation for the company, where it can make the biggest impact and how it can create an inimitable emotional connection with consumers.

More specifically, Best Buy needs to establish a brand that is true to its abilities, relevant to its shoppers, sustainable over time and differentiating among the competition. Not a simple task, but one made simpler by addressing experience, culture, communications and processes all at once. The alignment of these four components is what makes an organization stand out.

While a brand should contain aspirational elements, an organization needs to be certain it can “live” the brand today. And with that in mind, I suggest that Best Buy start asking itself some difficult questions. What can the company realistically assert and deliver today? What new and differentiating offerings can the company develop? What external market changes will impact the organization? What can the consumer get nowhere else? How does the company insert itself into the hearts and minds of consumers?

The answers to these questions may lie in specialization, product integration and installation, a transparent customer experience or even true personalized expertise. Right now, it’s unclear to consumers and seemingly, to Best Buy. Yet the one thing that is clear is that many of these challenges will be solved through the branding process.

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