Borders to Consumers: ‘It’s The Thought That Counts’

The agency that put a mutant bat boy in a Mini for BMW pits gift wrap and book critics against electric toasters for Borders, as the chain looks to gain ground on category leader Barnes & Noble this Christmas.

The nation’s second-largest bookstore operator launched a print and outdoor effort yesterday from Maxxcom’s Crispin Porter + Bogusky, the first work from the Venice, Calif., shop since it won the $15 million account in September. To differentiate itself in the category, the effort departs from Borders’ previous price-oriented strategy, seeking to show how much more meaningful gifts such as books, movies or music are than more generic presents such as toasters, said CP+B creative director Tim Roper.

As the Miami office did with the much-lauded 2002 launch of BMW’s Mini, CP+B uses an offbeat media strategy to compensate for a limited budget. Three two-sided print inserts in Rolling Stone, the New Yorker and more than 40 newspapers nationwide include brightly colored wrapping paper, and a 3-D image of a CD, DVD or book on the other side of the page.

CP+B also created four full-page newspaper executions that feature real critics’ reviews and poke fun at gifts such as toasters and sweaters. One ad includes reviews for items such as the book From Emeril’s Kitchen and the Al Green CD I Can’t Stop, with an image of a toaster and the description, “Electric. Browns bread evenly.” The work is running in the The Chicago Tribune and The Washington Post.

The campaign also includes ads on phone and mall kiosks, bus sides and shelters, and billboards, which carry lines such as, “If the pen is mightier than the sword, an original idea can beat the you-know-what out of a toaster.” The ads appear close to Borders’ 300-plus U.S. sites.

Another ad, meant to demonstrate a person’s relationship with the content Borders offers, shows a woman with her tongue out, trying to catch snowflakes—each carrying the name of a book, CD or DVD.

The new tagline is, “This season, it’s the original thought that counts.”

“This is the beginning of our conversation with the consumer about the meaningfulness of content,” said Roper. He explained that Borders can provide insight into its products in ways that mass merchants like Wal-Mart or Costco cannot, adding that those chains sell music, movies and books almost as an afterthought.

Borders vp of marketing Marilyn Slankard said spending is slightly higher than last year’s holiday campaign. The retailer spent $2 million on advertising last December, according to Nielsen Monitor-Plus. Previous work by Campbell-Ewald in Warren, Mich., consisted of more price-focused print ads.

Candace Corlett, partner at strategic marketing and retail consultancy WSL Strategic Retail in New York, said the campaign is “a step in the right direction” for Borders. The chain had more than $2.4 billion in sales through October, according to Hoover’s Online, up more than 6 percent from the same period last year. B&N’s sales through October were more than $3.7 billion, up more than 9 percent from last year.