by Kenneth Rudich
Insofar as this is our third post about the Best Buy brand in as many months, and insofar as it’s highly unusual for us to heap so much attention on any one entity within such a short frame of time, I want to explicitly state, for the purpose making a clear disclaimer, that we are NOT picking on the retail giant for the sake of doing…well…just that.
Again, it’s worth repeating: we are NOT even remotely interested in being a David to this Goliath. Besides, it would seem the retailer has already assumed that role for itself, given its singular talent for inflicting self-administered wounds. To be sure, it doesn’t need any help from us.
Brand Management Gone Wild
The reality is that this once high-flying brand has quickly morphed into a prototype of what NOT to do if you want to remain afloat as the world’s largest consumer electronics retail chain. In fact, it has become a model of infinitely bad marketing management, with declines in same-store sales for six of the last seven quarters.
The first sign of trouble reared up as far back as the 2010 holiday season, when consumers more or less ignored its gamble on being a technology leader with products like 3D television.
Now fast forward to the 2011 holiday season (see Branding Blunder Bedevils Best Buy), where the situation had grown only more grim with the passage of time. The once low-level murmur of grumbling customers got amplified into a loud chorus of boos thanks to social networking. Antagonists outnumbered advocates, and they seemed relentless in the desire to express their displeasure. Many suggested alternative options that they perceived as far superior to Best Buy’s raggedy customer service experience. It was somewhat painful to watch because they were literally herding people together and nudging them elsewhere – at its absolute lowest point, the mantra became “anywhere and everywhere BUT…”
By March 2012, the gravity of it all really hit home. Best Buy CEO Brian Dunn announced the initiation of a massive restructuring (see A Big Brand Tumbles from Bluster to Fluster) for the Big Box retailer. He insisted he was the best person to lead it, and he appeared poised to pursue it until the brand reclaimed every bit of its former glory.
Only thing is, two weeks later, amid swirling reports of new customer disgruntlement over a restrictive return policy, CEO Brian Dunn resigned unexpectedly.
The initial explanation offered by Best Buy insisted it came on the heels of an internal decision to install new leadership. A later report disclosed the possibility of improper personal conduct by the former CEO. Still later yet, it became an investigation into allegations of using company resources to facilitate an inappropriate relationship with a female subordinate.
Talk about rich with irony. One of the rare few people that was arguably safe in the face of a massive restructuring went poof in the blink of an eye.
Best Buy Ahoy
Let’s just say it: if Best Buy was a ship, then it may well be the Titanic.
Recovery seems uncertain at best, unless consumers suddenly decide to buy in. Outside of that, Best and Buy will no longer be united in marital bliss anymore.