May 14, 2019

4 Lessons From the Last Blockbuster Video

Tuesdays With Coleman

There is no reason why a Blockbuster Video should still be in business.

But in fact, there are quite a few reasons it is.

And when you’re the last one standing in a business segment that many might perceive is from the Mesozoic era, it’s probably a good exercise to ask the obvious question…

How is the last Blockbuster still in business, and what can I learn from it?

The last Blockbuster Video on Earth is in Bend, Oregon—population 94,520.

No kidding, if you go to, there is a link that says, “Blockbuster Store Location” that pops up with only the Bend store.

Just 15 years ago, there were 9,000 Blockbusters on Earth, and generally speaking, we all know what went wrong.

Blockbuster missed the move to DVD-by-mail (it even passed up the chance to buy Netflix for $50 million in 2000. Oops). Blockbuster missed the move to DVD in a box (Redbox). It missed the move to streaming. And, perhaps the biggest self-inflicted wound was the dreaded customer-service killing late fee.

So, we know why Blockbuster closed. What’s the last one doing open?

Is it because Bend is such a small town? Doesn’t hold water. Bend is a Nielsen rated market (#196), and what about all the smaller areas that had Blockbusters?

Is it because Bend doesn’t have high speed internet? No. It does.

Well, what? What is it then??

LESSON 1: Promote what differentiates you

When you walk into the last Blockbuster on Earth, the employees wear gear and they sell t-shirts that scream, “Last Blockbuster in America!”. You can buy a “Last Blockbuster” sticker for $2.

It could very easily just be the last Blockbuster on the planet and not tell anyone about it. But what’s the fun in that?

Media brands make subtle changes to their strategies and hope the audience notices. Or, the positioning doesn’t cut through. That’s not how you build an image.

A great exercise for any brand is to think about what truly makes it different. Why consumers choose it over other brands. You may find it’s not what you’re promoting now.

Once you determine what that differentiator is, you hammer it like you’re the last Blockbuster on Earth.

LESSON 2: Use memories and nostalgia

A man drove 1,000 miles to the last Blockbuster because, he said, he “just wanted to relive [his] childhood”.

Its social media is littered with photos of customers taking pictures of themselves at the last Blockbuster on Earth.

Blockbuster brings back memories.

You know what else brings back memories? Music. Funny, radio can be pretty good at capitalizing on emotion too when it remembers to tap into it.

LESSON 3: Make your brand easy to use

We’ve covered the paradox of choice too many times to count in this blog. Today’s consumers are overwhelmed with choices and “subscription fatigue”. A customer at the last Blockbuster on Earth compares Netflix to a dating app. “You’re on it for hours, it’s almost overwhelming.”

No, it is overwhelming.

Customers appreciate the incredible customer service and recommendations provided by the staff at the last Blockbuster on Earth.

Radio is free and already curated. Make the listening experience as easy, painless and personal as possible.

LESSON 4: Make it a fun place to work

When I was a radio program director, you could always tell which station in the cluster was mine. The studio of the last station I programmed was the one with the inflatable couch and the autographs of the station’s celebrity guests on the orange wall that the air staff painted on a Saturday while listening to the new Kings of Leon on repeat.

Just as listeners can tell if your team is having fun, so can customers of every business.

The employees at the last Blockbuster on Earth clearly love working there.

There are pictures of them through the years in the owner’s office.

They write handwritten notes, have been known to offer home delivery, and host movie trivia nights and movie dance parties.

If the last Blockbuster on Earth can thrive, your radio station can too.

Just run it like it’s the last Blockbuster on Earth, and you’ll be just fine.

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