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Product diversification makes brand even more important

August 18, 2011
Publishing House

The future of the publishing house? A lack of brand strategy spells disaster for publishers

Today, publishers face competition from numerous different areas: free online resources; traditional competitors; self-publishing of e-books and print volumes via Amazon and Lulu; apps; bloggers and more. In such an environment, why should a customer choose you and how does your offering stand out?

A key part of definition in a crowded market place is brand – the emotional reason why customers choose a supplier. Yet, even now it is not that easy. For example, can a brand based on cheap paperbacks make its way onto apps, e-books, blogs and more?

Clearly, the answer is yes – but only if it is done strategically. We have already discussed in these pages the failure of many publishers to leverage their brands via the Kindle medium. Result: Amazon is now morphing into a publisher – or at least the preferred conduit for readers seeking knowledge.

Publishers have tried to fight back with their own websites, e-books and apps but often these attempts seem amateurish because they lack strategic brand management and get swallowed up in internal politics, lack of experience and shortage of funds.

Many publishers attempts to appear relevant, often appear comical. And then, when patience runs out, they return to the way they used to do things because they lack the will to compete strategically.

Indeed, many publishers today have even routed their website order systems via Amazon because it is easier and cheaper. Alas, with such strategy goes direct customer relationships and informed development of future product. Brand equity is further surrendered.

Publishers seem to be operating from pure fear: they know not what to do and have surrendered the interface to global players. But this does not mean that they need surrender their brand – rather they need to ensure that they KNOW what their brand stands for and that they ensure that however their brands are marketed, that they come first.

However, it is a sad truth that many publishers play at brand management but don’t take it seriously. They don’t understand emotional attachment. They don’t practice differentiation. They are clueless about value-based pricing and positioning.

Old hands in the editorial department combine with old timers in key positions to ensure that new methods won’t work and old territories are preserved. People with new ideas are initially welcomed… and then ignored.

In this chaos publishers turn to their “skill”: the identification of future talent in new authors. But here’s the rub, they rely on authors alone to define the success of the mother brand but – with rare exceptions such as the emotional link between JK Rowling and Bloomsbury – authors have been allowed to become the bigger brand. Result: for the latest Michael Morpurgo, readers go to Amazon rather than The Buggleskelly Press.

As a publisher, how can you be sure your business is still going to be there in ten or twenty years time? If you’re hoping that by tweaking the trade and growing Amazon sales you’ll be able to survive, the future is likely to be bleak indeed. A strategic and committed approach to brand is now crucial.

2 Comments leave one →
  1. August 19, 2011 9:56 am

    Isn’t it strange how the those suppliers in the market that have been there a long time are the last to get it – why because the new entrants see things differently.

    Evolution is the only way to survive and it this should be embedded in your business strategy because otherwise you have to deal with a revolution which normally means somebody or thing gets hurt or damaged.

    Like the article – hits the nail on the head and is appropriate to most other sectors to boot!!

    • August 19, 2011 10:14 am

      Thanks Andy – it’s great to get positive feedback like this. And I couldn’t agree more: evolution is crucial – whether you publish books or make aircraft.

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