Blockbuster was an icon, I can still remember Friday evenings spent in my local branch browsing through the VCRs (and later DVDs), convincing my parents that we definitely did need the overpriced popcorn and ice cream. Now if my household is planning a big night in we’re scrolling through Netflix and yes, still nibbling away on that ‘Sweet n Salty’, but something about it always feels just a little disloyal. So what happened to Blockbuster and why even five years on since their announced closure can we still not let go?
A late night shopping spree saw HBO talk show host John Oliver, recently purchase Russell Crowe’s old leather jockstrap (for the bargain price of $7,000), a vest Crowe wore in Les Miserables (2012), a hood he wore for Robin Hood (2010), and Crowe’s chair from the 2007 film American Gangster, as well as part (but not all) of Denzel Washington’s chair from the same film. All of which he then donated to one of the last standing Blockbuster stores in Anchorage, Alaska. While this may confuse some, Oliver purchased these items in order to give them to the store and encourage people to visit and solidify this particular branch’s place in the community. It’s certainly a lot of change Oliver has had to find down the back of the sofa for Blockbuster’s sake, but I understand his actions.
This brand was one that brought all ages together, families, friends, those looking to just escape the world for a few houses, you’d find them all in Blockbuster. Now due to the digital age, we don’t even have to venture across the living room to find the remote, ‘Alexa, change the channel’. Despite the fondness many of us had in our hearts for Blockbuster it failed to see the changing tides and refused to divert from its established business model. It didn’t adapt to the growing army of streaming enthusiasts, it continued to charge late fees (no one appreciated those apart from Blockbuster’s accountants), it didn’t recognise the customer frustration for out of stock products and restricted choices. Meanwhile, Netflix swooped in with one-off subscription fees, vast amounts of choice, videos to the door (in the beginning that is) and an understanding of the importance of progression. If Blockbuster had evolved would it have squashed Netflix? Absolutely. It had all of the ingredients to do so, the loyal customers, the extra services, the respect of production companies and licensing partners, but they stopped moving their feet and dropped the ball.
Brand identity helped Blockbuster stave off the final blow of Netflix for over 15 years, but ultimately there’s never been a better example of why brands need to keep moving forward. To avoid becoming the next Blockbuster brands need to keep upping their game and always be ahead of consumer wants and needs.
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