Waterstones begins new branding push

Waterstones is rolling out a new branding campaign set to emphasise the benefits of shopping in a physical bookshop and underlining its importance as “the nation’s leading high street bookseller”. The campaign, which launches today (5th October), will include advertising, an exclusive anthology and an in-house magazine.

New posters displayed in-store will carry four different texts: “Books you can’t put down are much easier to find when you can actually pick them up”; “Even the most ardent reader will never reach the end of a good bookshop”; “Words cannot do justice to the pleasures of a good bookshop. Ironically”; and “A good book will keep you fascinated for days, a bookshop for your whole life”.

The designs will also be used in an advertising campaign on the London Underground and on street billboards nationwide, and in the national press, beginning next week. They will also feature on customer carrier bags, badges and postcards.

Ros Hines, Waterstones’ marketing director, said: “We have a powerful brand, and we should be using that to get over powerful messages that do more than simply promote individual books, but remind people just how good being in a bookshop is, and how important they are—and we are—to the British high street.”

The move comes as the chain retailer prepares to sell Amazon’s Kindle devices in its stores (from 25th October), although none of the advertising is thought to mention Amazon.

Waterstones is also going to release an exclusive anthology of 18 short stories, poems and essays by authors including Sir Max Hastings, Will Self, Victoria Hislop and Anthony Horowitz on the subject of the colour red. Red: A Waterstones Anthology will be released as a red cloth-bound gift-sized hardback in November exclusively in Waterstones stores at £10, and as an e-book sold through Waterstones’ website and through Amazon’s Kindle store for a price still to be confirmed.

Waterstones said it paid “market prices” for the contributions, with the editing done by Cathy Galvin, formerly of the Sunday Times Magazine. Head of Brand Communications, Fiona Allen, said: “We think our customers will love it and we hope it leads to more books of this type from Waterstones in the future.”

The company is also printing 600,000 copies of a one-off free magazine Between the Lines which will be distributed from Waterstones stores, featuring reviews and genre round-ups for the autumn season. The magazine will also be available online.

Marketing strategist Damian Horner said Waterstones’ new branding concentrated on reinforcing its relevance to its customer base, reminding people of the value of a physical bookshop. He praised the slogan “Books you can’t put down are much easier to find when you can actually pick them up” as being a “good execution” of the central message.

However he questioned the effectiveness of the other phrases, saying: “Waterstones is in a difficult position and I think the time to seduce people just with a feel-good message has gone . . . In this fragile economy people, will sacrifice atmosphere for price.”