Over the last decade James Patterson has published an unprecedented number of best-selling books, cemented a powerful brand image amongst a loyal following, and redefined the process by which authors create content to meet reader demand. From November 2000 through June 2003, Patterson had cumulative sales of over six million dollars, trailing only John Grisham during that time frame. He has generated the majority of his sales through a loyal readership that consistently lines up to buy his next installment.
Keenly aware of this dedicated following, Patterson successfully sought to augment the proliferation of his titles with co-authors familiar with his brand that could share the workload, creating a virtual assembly-line of best-sellers. Despite this enormous success, the Patterson brand still has a sizeable opportunity for growth. Patterson cites a need to broaden his, relative to other best-selling authors, narrow reader base to capture a greater percentage of the “omnivorous” readers, amongst whom his brand penetration was much lower. There are two possibilities for Patterson to consider, both involving his relationship with book clubs.
The book clubs provide an excellent source of individualized customer information, but have not themselves yielded an enormous amount of profitability for already-established authors such as Patterson. The first option would be to negotiate higher club royalties with the existing book club partnerships. Patterson himself has advocated this approach, citing that the clubs often erode profits from bookstore store sales, and the clubs need him more than he needs the clubs. The second possibility is for Patterson to embrace the book club marketing model, using the club’s customer information to market directly to the customer.
Patterson could identify on an individual and international basis the “omnivorous” reader that has not yet embraced his books. He could then tailor a marketing campaign centered around the promotion of his titles directly to these readers. Recommendation: The first option would not really address the concern about Patterson’s narrow reader base. While it may be true that the club needs Patterson more than he needs the club, it is still a means to reach a broader audience. It seems more likely that Patterson has merely under-used the club channel, which is why the second option would provide a better opportunity for Patterson to reach a larger target audience.
He mentions that he has not yet become a “badge” author, meaning that he has not been able to break out of his genre and create a “buzz” across a wide range of readers. He does not yet have the name recognition as some of his best-selling counterparts, and without this name recognition he needs to seek other means to create a buzz for his next title. I would advocate allowing book club members exclusive access to his next release before it is released in book stores or other retail channels.
Clubs, with exclusive rights to the pre-released book, would now have incentive to push Patterson as its preeminent selection. This would help create the powerful, and international, word-of-mouth campaign that he is seeking. First, those already loyal to the brand would now have the opportunity to create anticipation amongst other non-club Patterson loyalists, driving demand for its eventual release in stores. Secondly, and more importantly, club members not loyal to the brand would now have an added incentive to sample a Patterson novel.
Being granted exclusive access to what promises to be a best-seller might be the impetus necessary to finally penetrate more of the omnivorous readers. Now Patterson would have a broad spectrum of readers across the globe discussing his novel and creating a buzz before it even reaches a mass audience. This is a similar model to the one employed in the movie industry, where movies are pre-released to create a word-of-mouth campaign before its larger release. Patterson notes that the book industry is generally “unimaginative”, essentially waiting to retroactively replicate the success of the next blockbuster hit.
With an exclusive pre-release to a carefully pre-determined list of customers, Patterson would instead be proactively creating a buzz, and potentially, a blockbuster. In terms of channel management, this pre-release should satisfy all members of the channel. Certainly, the book clubs would embrace the idea of being able to market an exclusive release of a Patterson novel, and with exclusive rights, should be able to retain club members for longer commitments. More importantly, this would not have to come at the expense of the retail chains because club members generally would buy books through the club channel anyways.
The retail stores, instead, could benefit from the buzz created by club members, as non-club members may now be clamoring to buy the book their friends have already been talking about as soon as it is released in stores. A true blockbuster would increase the size of the “pie” for all channel members. Channel (2001): Strategic Resources: Patterson: ?Brand name: dominant in crime fiction genre ?Many titles: 3 per year vs. 1 for Clancy, Cornwell ?Cliffhanger endings leave Patterson readers eager for next installment ? Marketing Expertise: Patterson former Chairman of J. Walter Thompson “Badge” Authors:
?Name recognition: 90% and 84% for Grisham and Clancy (Patterson 54%) ? Broader range of readers ?Books as a status symbols: read these authors to impress others Book Clubs: ?Individualized customer information ?Name-brand authors ?Capable of tracking all book sales and buying behavior Problems: Resources: ?Patterson name not as well known as his book titles ?Relatively narrow range of readers: mainly “crime fiction addicts” ? Not as much status in reading a Patterson novel ?Relatively small international readership Incentives: ?Book Clubs push authors with highest name recognition?
Patterson books might not be promoted as heavily as books from “badge” authors ? Deals with clubs risk eroding bookstores’ profits ?Club members often terminate contract after commitment is over Coordination: ?Retail stores can only track purchase behavior through surveys Recommendation: ?Pre-release next best-seller prospect with book club members oPre-release gives book, as well as club members, premium status oGenerates a “buzz” before retail release in domestic and international markets with Patterson loyalists and “omnivorous” best-seller readers oCreates anticipation to drive demand for purchases at retail stores.
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