Borders, the bookstore chain, has filed for bankruptcy. Is it any surprise? Buyers have voted with their dollars and attention. Borders was a winner during the old economy. The rules were different then. Mass retailers ruled the day. They governed what we bought and presented it on shelves. Those shelves were limited. They were choice spots that were occupied by corporate deal making and curator preferences.
Today, the middleman has less utility. The internet puts the buyer in control, not the seller. Increasingly, the need for a number two brand is less important. That leverage point is something that was of utility for the middleman in times past. Today, the direct access you have between what you want and who has it changes the entire dynamic.
If You Don’t Reinvent
The world has changed. People that grew up on the internet are adults now. The old guard spent a lot of energy trying to maintain the status quo. Record labels, newspapers, bookstores, paper check producers and a host of other distribution channels sat mired in old ways of thinking. They made money and enjoyed the cash cow as behaviors shifted quickly to a more efficient and new world of real-time, accessible information and goods.
If you don’t reinvent, you obsolesce. Deluxe makes checks and they sell their paper checks to banks and banking customers. They knew it was hopeless to convince the world to write more checks. Instead, they created a solutions consulting center for banks and provided increasing value with new services. They created upscaled paper checks as well. Their commodity business was going away. Their brand had to stand for something else.
IBM did the same from moving from typewriters. NCR used to make cash registers rather than POS systems. To survive, there has to be a broader view of who you are and a focus on the branding strategies which apply for the new economy.
Here’s the gist. If you want to avoid being Borders and many like them, think broader and reposition your brand. If Borders only saw themselves as a book retailer, then they lose. The world has moved past the book retailer. What is it that Amazon is known for in our minds that makes them relevant? What is it that Starbucks does that makes them a place to go and meet? Half and half doesn’t quite make it. Complete reinvention into a new category is critical, lest the world votes you out of your position of past enjoyment.
How can you take what is old in your business and reinvent it for what is new? Feel free to comment below.