Posters from the city-wide print campaign
The mobile book store at Bryant Park today
After we got wind of HUGE’s innovative street-corner campaign for CEO Aaron Shapiro’s book, Users Not Customers: Who really determines the success of your business, we knew we had to see the movement for ourselves. I took the 1 train uptown to Bryant Park, where HUGE had set up their book carts (complete with a French press and old receipt calculator “for the Borders’ aesthetic,” clarified freelance marketing strategy contributor JD Beebe). Former Borders employees took up their familiar task, selling books, while also telling their personal stories.
Melissa Bonilla worked for Borders for four years until, “Customers came up to us [and asked], ‘Are you sure you guys aren’t going out of business yet? There are all these rumors.’ And even – we have a morning meeting before the store opens – and they’re like ‘We’re going to be fine, we’re going to be great,’ and then a couple of hours later: ‘Oh, Borders just filed Chapter 11.’”
Mo Kahn didn’t know his store was closing until a customer told him the news. His manager officially announced it the next day. Mo is starting a new job as a member of the meat cutter’s union next week, but Melissa hasn’t fared as well. She hasn’t found a job yet, but has applied to go back to school.
When Melissa was approached to work on the Users Not Customers campaign, she was immediately willing because she says she found the book interesting and thought, “Oh, I can sell a book on the street. I can promote a book. I did that for four years.”
Some people who pass by the makeshift store actually confuse it for a Borders. But anyone who stops will realize how it's in fact a play on that store's non-existence. "We’re here today to talk about how businesses need to be a little more responsible in terms of their business strategy, and we’re using Borders as an example. I think that it’s really about telling managers, CEOs and other people that they need to evolve their business strategy and digital is a big part of that,” says HUGE Senior Marketing and Communications Manager, Melissa Gore. “It’s really thinking about the end user, rather than a customer, and solving for them. We’re here trying to make people a little bit more aware and a little bit savvier in business making decisions.”
As Gore says, Borders is just one example of the mighty now fallen. HUGE also cites Circuit City and Blockbuster in its print campaign. They hit the right pressure points by targeting both business names and the people who do the work. Corporate bigwigs, managers, and cashiers alike can relate to this campaign. When businesses fail to adapt, everyone gets screwed (though the higher up an employee is, the less likely they are to falter in their professional trajectory).
Andrew Kessler, creative director of the book stunt, speaks to its effectiveness via emotionality: “Using Ex-Borders employees seemed like a very human way to tell an important business story. It’s a warning for us all to heed. The missteps in the C-suite can put you out in the cold. And then, who could resist using a book to tell the story of a book store that closed down but would still be open if only management read the book—yeah, put that in your pipe."
[Photos from HUGE Flickr]