Want to watch a movie this weekend? If you agreed, it’s likely we’d sit down, grab a remote, and start perusing the catalogs of mega streaming companies like Netflix, Hulu, and Amazon Prime. However, if I asked you the same question twenty years ago, the evening’s events would unfold quite differently.
It’s likely that instead of heading to the couch first, we’d get into the car and head to the local video store. There, we’d probably bump into friends as we strolled the aisles and held on to the hope that when we happened upon the must-see flick or off-beat film we’ve been dying to check out, a ready-to-rent DVD would be waiting on the other side — I’m sure some of you can recall the disappointment that followed if there wasn’t.
Today, we no longer have to beat the rush, cross our fingers, or loiter in front of the return box. Instead, we just have to hope that the streaming service we have carries the movie or series we want. If they don’t, we can likely cough up $2 -$6 to “rent” it anyway.
Unless, of course, you live in Bend, Oregon. Then you may get to experience the nostalgia of your cinematic past.
In a recent AP article aptly entitled “Oregon Blockbuster Outlasts others to become the last on earth” author Gillian Flaccus tells the store of the world’s last BlockBuster. And in doing so, she may have uncovered a few noteworthy lessons that can help other businesses grow and maintain relevancy.
1. Keep equipment up-to-date
The owners of the Bend Blockbuster did so many things right, and really, this lesson is less about what they didn’t do and more about what limited budgets lead to over the life and subsequent death of BlockBuster franchises.
Today, the Oregon business is forced to use floppy disks to reboot their computer system and back up transactions on reel-to-reel tape. The first isn’t’ widely used or understood by many of today’s emerging workforce — to no fault of their own. The latter is no longer available, as they were products by Radio Shack, another business that has been laid to rest.
If you’re relying on a single method of backup or on aging equipment, you may want to consider the long-term implications of how that can impact your business should technology change or products become unavailable.
That’s not to suggest that storage devices like hard drives are going to become irrelevant any time soon, but there are some things, like CDs that may go the way of the eight-track, cassette player, and of course, the floppy disk. It may be wise to have a backup system in place, just in case.
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2. Customize the customer experience
As most Blockbusters were dropping like the rating for a poorly made sequel, the Oregon video franchise held on to customers. One reason for that was their ability to connect with their customers.
In addition to rental wish lists and recommendations, they also offered select customers delivery if they were otherwise unable to make it to the store. Small but impactful gestures.
So many times, in a play, to make things easier and streamlined, businesses look to efficiency instead of personal touch. The cost-effect streamline approach certainly has value, particularly in operational processes, but when it comes to customers, it’s important to make them feel like they’re valued. If they don’t, then they won’t value your brand.
3. Play up what makes your business unique
If the opening lines of this article made you nostalgic for your video store forays, you’re not alone. There is an attractive novelty in what BlockBuster, and video stores in general, used to represent to the masses.
To make up for the dwindling rental market, Sandi Harding, the general manager, has taken to selling sweatshirts and t-shirts, some of which include the business’s new slogan “The Last Blockbuster on the Planet. She also sells homemade beanies donning the iconic blue and yellow.
Laying your claim to fame on a t-shirt may not be the best move for your business, but that doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t think of ways to play up the products, services, and characteristics that make your business different from the rest.
4. Consider how you can attract new audiences
One of the fundamental rules of marketing is to identify your target audience and develop strategies to bring them in. However, that doesn’t necessarily mean that your business is only suited for a specific audience.
Harding sites a new audience that may pave the way towards continued longevity, the children of parents who visit the store for a trip down memory lane.
While mom and dad may re-live their youth as they peruse video racks as the smell of buttery popcorn wafting through the airs, their children create their own memories, and as she points out, “later leave happy, holding stacks of rented movies and piles of candy.”
If your business is struggling, it may be time to take a long look at your products and services and ask if there is another audience who may benefit, and if so, how you can start to include them in existing marketing efforts or pivot in a new direction.
In the end, perhaps the best lesson that we can take away from the last Blockbuster on the planet is that one of perseverance in the face of all odds.
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