Barnes & Noble Promotes Booksellers Over Algorithms to Get Shoppers In Stores

Brand worked with Havas to recast its employees as the all-knowing book people

Booksellers from Barnes & Noble get the spotlight in the brand's holiday marketing. Barnes & Noble
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Sometimes shopping online for holiday gifts seems like the easy way out, but when looking for something really special and personal, Barnes & Noble believes going to the store is essential to finding that perfect gift. That’s why the brand is recasting its booksellers as the all-knowing book lovers who can help you find the best gifts for everyone you need to shop for this year.

Barnes & Noble worked closely with Havas on the “Nobody Knows Books Like We Do” campaign, which includes eight 15-second spots celebrating the brand’s 23,000 booksellers (or salespeople) across the country.

“One of the things that is unique about Barnes & Noble as a shopping experience is interacting with their booksellers,” Tim Maleeny, Havas chief strategy officer, North America, said. “They can not only help you navigate the store and find the perfect gift, but you know they are going to be totally passionate about whatever it is you are shopping for.”

That’s why Havas really wanted to use the retailer’s holiday campaign to sell not the products, but the employees who sell those products and the knowledge they posses about fandoms and series of all kinds. Two spots focus on Harry Potter and Game of Thrones, for example, while others feature Captain Underpants, the growing strategy game category (think The Settlers of Catan) and more.

In the end, the campaign aims to get people to brick-and-mortar Barnes & Noble stores to do their shopping rather than purely online. That way, the brand highlights, shoppers can benefit from speaking with an expert—not relying on an algorithm to find a gift for a friend or family member.

“An algorithm is measuring what you like. You are actually shopping through a filter of your likes,” Harry Bernstein, CCO of Havas New York, said. “When you go to the store, you are not being filtered by an algorithm—you are engaging with someone who understands those interests maybe even more than you do, and you actually get that better gift in the end.”

@ktjrichards Katie Richards is a staff writer for Adweek.