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Blockbuster, the Mark Twain of Video

29 May, 2009 By: Thomas K. Arnold

Blockbuster continues to show signs of being, with apologies to the "3rd Rock from the Sun" finale, The Thing That Wouldn't Die.

The veteran rental chain has heard more rumors of its impending death than Mark Twain, but as with the famous American writer, rumors of its death have been greatly exaggerated.

Jim Keyes' strategy, which he first shared with me at the July 2007 VSDA convention in Las Vegas, is to turn Blockbuster into a one-stop shop for movies, where consumers can rent a film, buy a film, pick it up on DVD or Blu-ray, or even get a download.

These days, that strategy makes more sense than ever, and while skeptics continue to harp that Blockbuster is on death's door Keyes is resolutely plodding ahead with his plan, and as he told investors May 28 the chain is now launching new television and radio ads he hopes will get consumers all hot and heavy about Blockbuster's various ways to deliver movies into consumer hands (to read our complete story, click here).

Critics of Blockbuster continue to be unmoved, but you have to at least hand it to Keyes, he doesn't stop trying. I happen to believe his overall strategy is the right one; whether or not it works really depends on consumer perception of the Blockbuster brand.

If they start equating Blockbuster with "bringing movies home," expect a home run.

But if consumers continue to see Blockbuster as a place to rent, and only rent, physical movies, then Keyes will be no more successful than Bill Fields was a decade ago, when he sailed over from Wal-Mart with grand visions of turning Blockbuster into a network of "entertainment emporiums" and launched a "one word, one world" (or was it "one world, one word"?) campaign no one really understood.

It's all about perception--as are so many things related to Hollywood. Hopefully the new ad campaign will help.


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