Brief Encounter: Waterstones

On Wednesday some of the finest minds at Earnest assembled, once again, for a Brief Encounter: our monthly get-together to tackle a fictional brief over a couple of beers and a slice or two of pizza.

This month, fresh off the back of the news that UK sales of e-readers are on the decline, we put our heads together to figure out how Waterstones could capitalise on this and encourage readers to keep buying physical, printed books.

Focused around pre-Christmas and summer seasons, we were to think of concepts for an above the line campaign, while looking at ways Waterstones could improve the experience of buying books online or via their app.

After just one hour locked in a room, both teams returned to share some ideas on how they would put the printed word back on the map.

Team one kicked off with the proposition ‘A Book is for Life’

Their thinking was that your favorite books stay with you throughout your life. Full of memories, they can be shared and just looking at them fills you with nostalgia.

They planned to kick off with an above the line campaign following the life of a book and its reader. They wanted to start with a TV ad following the book from a gift given to a young child that moved with them to their university bookshelf, to their family home and passed down to their own children. All backed up with simply, striking press ads (do excuse the crude diagrams).

The advertising campaign would be backed with the launch of the ‘A Book for Your Life’ app –users fill in bits of personal information about their age and stage of life, mood, relationship status, and are given a tailored recommendation for a book they can purchase at Waterstones.

In the lead up to Christmas, activity will be ramped up with the in-store events and point of sale displays around the theme of ‘My Life In Books’. Celebrities (J.K. Rowling, David Walliams, Stephen Fry) would chart their lives through the books that defined them and tweet about them.

Team one also suggested that for Christmas gifts Waterstones should offer personalised inside book covers – printing messages in the front cover of books when they’re ordered as gifts.

Looking forward to summer, the team suggested a partnership with Airbnb called ‘A Book When You Book’ – where you can order a book with your booking which will be there when you arrive. Finally, they proposed a series of ‘book swap shops’ around London, encouraging people to share their favourite books with others.

Team two stepped up with a different take focussing on the proposition ‘Books with Personality’

Team two were keen to play up the personal approach and expertise that Waterstones offer – compared to other online book-selling behemoths.

Focusing on more on a more tactical strategy they suggested Waterstone’s kick off with ‘Try before you buy’ – providing a real-life equivalent of Kindle’s preview chapters, releasing a limited edition one-chapter copy of an upcoming best-seller with a discount code in the back page to buy the full book in store. These could be handed out or even left on public transport in bigger cities, complete with handwritten messages from Waterstones staff in the front covers.

Online they were looking to digitise personal recommendations – mirroring the handwritten POS recommendations that Waterstones staff write for books in stores, social media staff search for people tweeting about key titles and tweet them back with recommendations for other books. “Glad you’re enjoying 50 Shades of Grey – why not try Twilight?”

They proposed a special offer for Christmas shoppers called ‘Christmas Bumper Editions’, where customers who bought one of the 10 Christmas best sellers in the first two weeks of December would be in with a chance of winning one of 10 signed first editions to upgrade their gift in time for Christmas.

Every book bought at the store comes with a front panel called a ‘History Tag’ that acts as a timeline for the life of a book. The timeline would begin with a “Bought at Waterstones” message, followed by your own note/name/dates, then the next person that reads it fills in their information and can see the history of that copy.

Not bad for an hour, eh?

For the visuals take a look at the Slideshare below, and if you happen to be from Waterstones and fancy giving one or two of the ideas a run give us a tweet @earnestagency.