CP+B Sees Borders As the ‘Funkier, Cooler’ Bookstore

If the nation’s top two bookstores were on a college campus, “Barnes & Noble would be the law library, and Borders would be the smaller, funkier, cooler place,” said Tim Roper, creative director at Crispin Porter + Bogusky in Venice, Calif., which last week won the music and book retailer’s $15 million account.

“Borders has the opportunity to be a really cool brand,” Roper said. “They know the need for differentiation and identity. Why buy the Tom Clancy book there rather than 15 other places?”

Maxxcom’s CP+B is expected to craft image advertising to create that “cool” identity in time for the holidays. The agency beat out the other finalists, Interpublic Group’s Carmichael Lynch in Minneapolis and independent The Richards Group in Dallas, for the business following a three-month review.

Roper said the agency will use a tone that is “more approachable and more down to earth.” The work is expected to position books and music as more thoughtful gifts than ties or socks, said client evp and chief marketing officer Michael Spinozzi.

“Price and selection and convenience can only get you so far,” Roper said. “You have to start with more of a brand perspective. If you think about the offerings in a place like that, it’s a far more personal statement or gift than a sweater or curling iron—if it’s chosen right.”

Borders previously worked with IPG’s Campbell-Ewald in Warren, Mich., but that relationship wound down to project work in the past year and ended in April, said Spinozzi. Borders’ most recent ads, all print, carried the tag “Find out” and were based on a theme of exploring that was developed several years ago by Perich + Partners in Ann Arbor, Mich.

With construction of new stores slowing, Borders decided it needed a stronger image and a greater array of promotions to build share against market leader Barnes & Noble. In March the retailer enlisted the Zyman Group, the consultancy launched in 1999 by former Coca-Cola chief marketer Sergio Zyman, to help define the “functional and emotional benefits of the brand,” Spinozzi said. He added that the Ann Arbor-based client is in the process of “transforming the business model.”

In the book-superstore market, the “only thing going on [has been] competitive square footage,” said Spinozzi, explaining that Borders’ growth has been based on an ” ‘If you build it, they will come’ model.” New-store construction fell from 40-50 outlets a year in 2002 to 30-40 this year, with the same projected for 2004, a company rep said. “Now it’s ‘If you build preference, they will come,’ ” Spinozzi said.

Spinozzi, who joined Borders two years ago and has been evp and CMO for a year and a half, said CP+B had “the same idea of what place the brand resides in,” citing its Ikea ads as an example of retail work that impressed him.

Growth for Borders, which is No. 2 in the category behind Barnes & Noble, has been relatively consistent. The chain registered 2002 sales of $3.4 billion and reported sales of $827 million for the quarter ended July 27, up 8.3 percent from the same period a year ago. Barnes & Noble’s 2002 sales were $4.9 billion, according to company filings; it spent about $6 million on advertising last year, according to TNS Media Intelligence/CMR.

The Borders account includes media planning and buying. A media plan has yet to be developed, and Spinozzi said it has not yet been determined if CP+B will do TV spots.