Barnes and Noble's Nook Has Failed to Meet Consumers' Emotional Engagement Expectations

It's time to commiserate for Barnes & Noble. The
once-great brick-and-mortar citadel of books is back-pedaling on its Nook

Why? Because customers' emotional engagement expectations
for the most important purchase drivers in the e-book/tablet category—all-in-one convenience and organic operations—are not being met.

Real books haven't paid off for the company like they did in
the pre-e-book era. B&N did respond with their e-book reader, Nook, but
revenues have dropped there too. Year-over-year sales are down by about 35%.

The chain officially announced the other day that it will
stop making the Nook color tablets. It will continue to offer the basic
black-and-white e-readers, but won't be manufacturing the tablet line. Instead,
it will work with a yet-to-be-named partner to make and co-brand that line of

Is it too little, too late?

You have to give B&N credit for trying to keep up with
competition like Amazon and Apple, but it doesn't take a genius to read between
the lines to see that B&N is looking to exit the hardware business.

Earlier this week, the company said they were planning to
dramatically slash prices. And the decline of dedicated e-book readers hasn't
helped their situation either.

E-readers had a two-year lead on tablets, and by then the
marketplace had pretty much cleared out the early adopters who thought it cool
to be able to carry around their library in something that fit in a (large)
pocket and weighed just south of eight ounces.

Now when you look at what consumers emotionally and
technically expect, the brands and products able to meet and sometimes exceed those
expectations are the brands seeing positive buying behavior in the marketplace
and are posting profits.

When you look at what consumers expect from an e-reader
specifically (with the category Ideal configured at 100%), e-readers rate 74%,
down 11% from just six months ago. Tablets rate 96%, up 4% in that same time
period. You do the math.

Brand success -- sales and profits -- always takes place
within the paradigm of high (and higher) consumer expectations for what drives
brand engagement.

Most of the really important brands are emotionally-based.
In the case of the Nook, the most important drivers are all-in-one convenience
and organic operations.

The trick to being successful is making sure you're able to
read these emotional engagement drivers in your category correctly 12 to 18
months before they appear in traditional research or get articulated in focus
groups -- and well ahead of the competition.

Brand Keys is a brand research consultant
company specializing in predictive consumer behavioral brand equity, loyalty
and engagement metrics.