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No joke. Barnes and Noble CEO, William Lynch, resigned on Monday. The writing was on the wall, or e-reader, well somewhere, that the B&Ns digital division had failed to turn their e-readers and tablets into best sellers.

Surprise ending to this story? Well, shouldn’t have been. Not from either a financial or emotional engagement perspective. If you’ve been reading the financial reports, digitally or on old-century newsprint, you can’t have missed the fact that Nook recently reported nearly a 34% drop in sales. If you had paged through the Brand Keys’ Nook emotional engagement assessments, you would have found that a real tearjerker too.

We’ve been measuring e-readers since there were e-readers. And while there are lots of categories where being first-to-market gives you a substantive advantage, and though you’re probably thinking e-readers was one of those categories, today that’s pretty much a fairytale. New technology will, of course, attract early adopters. And while they’re the ones who set the general plotline for the category, ultimately it’s the rest of us who define the very specific emotional narrative thread that brands must follow, if they want to show up as a marketplace best seller.

The biggest Nook flop had to do with consumer expectations for the second most-important engagement driver, “Organic Design,” where Nook always seemed to be playing catch-up with Apple and Kindle and Samsung and Asus, and then ran into production/supply problems. The first most-important engagement driver had to do with “Brand Value,” and the chain’s misguided efforts to merge dead-tree physical books and e-book retailing confused the brand tale they were trying to get the consumers to read. So for the moment, let’s edit out the design and production problems and just look at most recent “Brand Value” engagement ratings: 

  1. iPad  95% 
  2. Kindle  93%% 
  3. Samsung 90%
  4. Asus 88%
  5. Sony 85%
  6. Nook 60%

We’re pretty sure none of you require a math textbook to see why these kinds of ratings translate from how consumers see the Nook brand to their most-recently published financial report. Emotional engagement metrics are totally non-fiction. In fact, they are so prescient in their ability to predict consumer behavior they might very well be science fiction. Except they aren’t and they do.

Barnes and Noble said the company is reviewing their strategic plan and will be making efforts to re-write their org charts separating Nook from the brick-and-mortar stores, so we’ll have to wait to see whether that’s turns out to be fact or fiction.

But as these are books being sold, no matter the format, we feel confident in offering up some literary advice – a quote from Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar, “The fault, is not in our stars, but in ourselves.” Or in this case, the brand. Some engagement advice: Get a better read on your brand and an understanding of what consumers really expect and revise from there. And finally, some financial advice: Avoid Chapter 11. It can be a killer and the brand often ends up on the remainder table!

Connect with Robert on LinkedIn.

Find out more about what makes customer loyalty happen and how Brand Keys metrics is able to predict future consumer behavior: Visit our YouTube channel to learn more about Brand Keys

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