I kinda like Best Buy’s new ad campaign focused on its employees as problem solvers. I wish they’d gone further.

A 30-second TV spot entitled “Talk the Talk” has a politically correct smattering of customer types asking for help choosing electronics gizmos, and the company’s cheerful (and patient) blue-shirted staff providing answers. The customers appear in black & white, but the employees’ shirts pop in vivid blue (the brand’s blue, of course).

It’s smart because that tangible human interaction is probably the best distinction Best Buy has over its online rivals. Its stores serve as showrooms for gadgets, too, which means it can “sell” things that Amazon can’t: Come check out the products, and talk to us about them.

The business strategy has worked, all things considered: 4Q2017 revenue was up 9% over the same period last year, and even online sales were up (twice as much).

I’m also personally thrilled that they’re figuring things out, and focusing on the humanity of geophysical reality versus filling those real spaces with virtual demos and other tech nonsense. Successful branding requires a hefty dose of honest, self-awareness, and the latest campaign evidences just that.

I just wish it went further.

For starters, the customers in “Talk the Talk” are mostly clueless, much like the way adults are portrayed in Disney TV shows. One guy is confused when he’s asked the distance between his couch and the wall. A mom-type is thrilled when she’s told she can cook dinner by clicking on an app. A kindly grandma asks if she can call her staffer “my electronics guru.”

All this endearing silliness is accompanied by comedic-sounding clarinet background music. The ad’s punchline is “Let’s talk about what’s possible.”

I would have thought the pitch would be to discuss what’s doable, necessary, or simply what will work.

“Best Buy is tapping its own 100,000 blue-shirted employees as the stars of its new marketing campaign,” declared AdAge. But in the “Talk the Talk” spot, they’re really just foils to the consumers.

What’s missing is what qualifies Best Buy employees to provide those answers.

After all, why trust one gal or guy in a blue shirt over the collective wisdom of ratings and comments from the anonymous crowd online? Ditto for randomly asking some staffer on the showroom floor for help fixing a problem versus talking to my neighbor, or watching a DIY video.

I wish they’d skipped the heart-warming consumer blather and focused on sharing how their people are trained to provide counsel, ways they’re kept current (other than relying on their own initiative), and proof that Best Buy recognizes and incentivizes those behaviors…including some statement that staff aren’t paid to sell certain items, or rewarded for sales performance.

Also, I would have thrown in lots of third party affirmations (vendor certifications, or whatever) as proof points, with the goal of asserting Best Buy’s integrity, transparency, and resulting credibility.

The other missed opportunity is the way the campaign characterizes the technology challenge.

Choosing TVs or video game consoles aren’t as much technology questions as they are questions of expectations and taste. The real tech challenge is about how gizmos work together, and how to adapt them/with them to an ever-changing array of new products, services, and commensurate opportunities and risks.

It’s the IoT, stupid.

An employee in the TV spot reassures a customer that “we’ll help you make sure all your gadgets work together,” but that’s the only reference to integration and interoperability.

What about smart devices, and what will or won’t work with what else? What about the explosion of streaming services? Which devices will become obsolete the soonest, or how can they be upgraded and stay current? What about privacy? What about replacing the three remotes in my TV room with one?

The punchline shouldn’t be about what’s possible, but again, what’s necessary. Stores could be the physical embodiment of where the Internet of Things works, and a visit to a store a journey into the future (along with the commitment of informed experts to guide consumers on their way).

It would mean that all of the media hype about the IoT would serve as a promotional campaign for driving people to visit Best Buy to get the low-down on implementing that tech.

Oh, also they redesigned their logo (the rebranding took a year), which means absolutely nothing, but I say take the bad with the good.

I kinda like the new ad.

Categories: InnovationEssays