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BUZZ: So Much for Branding

8 Oct, 2002 By: Holly J. Wagner

Blockbuster Video is aggressively pursuing its competitors in busy markets like mine. The chain is opening stores across the street from its competitors, like the one that opened across the street from my neighborhood Wherehouse a couple of months ago.

So I didn't know whether to be surprised or amused over the weekend when I was in the Wherehouse and a guy went up to the counter to return a rental DVD.

Trouble was, the counter clerk pointed out, the disc was rented across the street and Blockbuster tends to frown on customers returning its discs to competing chains. They're funny that way.

What I got out of this is that no matter how much Blockbuster spends on CGI rodents and sponsoring Christmas parades, this guy was still taking his return where? The Wherehouse. The question is, why?

I can't pin it directly on advertising, having no idea of this man's media consumption habits. But I suspect that straightforward "get it here" advertising does more than warm, fuzzy characters and yippee-skippy event promotion.

I'm sort of assuming another family member checked the disc out and sent Pop to return it. No doubt that led to some confusion. The two stores are directly across the street -- you can look through one's windows and see across the boulevard into the other. He was embarrassed about the mistake.

Another thing I noticed was that the rental box was nondescript. It was generic black and had a computer-generated label that could have been for an Army training video. (Maybe it was a Warner title and had to be put in a plastic case because the Snappers don't hold up).

Somehow, this store was closer to the top of this fellow's mind than the one the rental actually came from. You can get DVD on every corner now -- and that's just the legal outlets. This guy is proof it's getting increasingly difficult to tell the chains apart.

I guess I'm just sharing a reality check, I'm not entirely sure what it means. Except maybe that rentailers should take a step back and ask themselves, "What sets my store apart?"

Better yet, ask your customers and give them what they want.

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