Hey, want to buy a NOOK? Barnes & Noble would very much like it if you did. That’s not surprising — they’re fighting hard for marketshare in an increasingly crowded market. But hot on the heels of their “buy a tablet, get an eBook reader!” bizarre promotion, they’ve been reminding everyone of another reason to buy a NOOK: They’ll pay you in NOOK credits. Essentially, they want to handcuff you to the NOOK ecosystem one way or another!
But are there better ways to market the NOOK family of products?
First, let’s look at the promotions. If you want an HD+, Barnes & Noble will give you a $50 gift card. This is a clever way to “cut” the price of the HD+ by $50, but instead of leaving you with an extra $50 to go spend wherever, the credit means you’ll use it on games, movies, and books, so B&N at least keeps you tied closer to them with that credit. And if you’re buying a NOOK, you’re going to appreciate having a boost at getting it filled with content!
That’s the logic in the other NOOK deal currently outstanding, which encourages you to share the NOOK ecosystem with your friends. If you get your friend to buy a NOOK, you get a $25 referral credit, and your friend gets $25 as well. This only works for the NOOK HD and HD+, so don’t steer your friends towards a NOOK Simple Touch and expect a credit!
Now, what has me banging my head against the wall is the $25/$25 referral deal. Nowhere in Barnes & Noble’s promotional information do they emphasize why it would be so great to refer your friends beyond “hey — free NOOK credit!” That’s not a bad reason all by itself, but it’s not exactly a huge selling point for the friend buying the NOOK. Would you call a friend and pitch them on spending $175 so you could make $25? See, B&N left off a key piece of information — some NOOK books can be loaned and shared to friends. So if I buy a NOOK, and my friend buys a NOOK, we can swap (select) books in our libraries. NOW I have a good reason to sell the NOOK to my friends, and the extra $25 credit for each of us is a bonus that comes with bringing both of us into the same shared ecosystem. By leading with the credit and neglecting to mention the sharing option, B&N just makes the NOOK sound like a sales pitch in a multi-level marketing scheme rather than a solid tablet and eBook ecosystem!
I’m not surprised Barnes & Noble is pushing their tablets over the eInk NOOKs. The latest reports indicate that tablets are significantly more popular than eInk devices for reading, and tablets certainly have more paths to e are books, movies, magazines, and apps, so there are plentiful revenue streams on the tablet side. The problem is that in tablets B&N isn’t just facing off against Amazon, but also Samsung, Google, Apple, and a slew of cheap Android tablets. Price cuts, even sneaky ones that come in the form of store credit, are nice, but B&N needs to do more than compete on price. By not highlighting a single thing that makes the NOOK HD ecosystem special, it comes across like B&N has given up, and are simply begging people to take the inventory off their hands. It reeks of desperation, and that’s a bad sign for the future of the NOOK!