Encyclopædia Britannica, for example.
In print continuously since 1768, Britannica‘s current edition comprises thirty-two bound volumes. Recently, the encyclopedia announced it will no longer publish printed editions, but will focus instead on its online version.
“The print edition became more difficult to maintain and wasn’t the best physical element to deliver the quality of our database and the quality of our editorial,” Jorge Cauz, Britannica‘s president, told Reuters.
Is Britannica‘s brand strong enough to survive this evolution?
Cauz thinks so. That’s because Britannica‘s brand centers on reliability. All of its articles are written by experts. It has more Nobel Prize-winning authors than any other encyclopedia, and employs a team of fact checkers to ensure its information is accurate and up-to-date. He claims he’s not worried about Wikipedia.
Brands are often challenged to rethink how they deliver. Many have succeeded. The list of top e-commerce websites, for example, includes numerous traditional brick-and-mortar retailers, such as Staples, Office Depot, Walmart, Office Max, Sears, Best Buy, J.C. Penney, Victoria’s Secret, Macy’s, L.L. Bean, Target, Gap, and Williams-Sonoma.
Their success online demonstrates that strong brands are more than their delivery systems.
Unless you are Blockbuster Video.
The Blockbuster brand is essentially about watching movies and playing electronic games on your own schedule and in the comfort of your own home. However, segment-leader Blockbuster struggled to separate itself from its outdated delivery system. It was slow to switch from analog to digital, from storefront to online. Its hesitation opened the door for Netflix and Redbox, brands that now dominate the experience originally owned by Blockbuster.
Simply put, Blockbuster confused its brand with its distribution system. Britannica didn’t.