Best Buy Gets Back in the Game With New Tagline, Focus

Retailer Looks to Boost Sales and Move Past Exec Exits With Creative Centered Around Tech

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Amid an executive exodus, a prolonged sales slump and increasing competition from rivals, Best Buy is trying to get back in fighting shape before the crucial back-to-school and holiday seasons.

Drew Panayiotou
Drew Panayiotou
For the past 18 months the U.S. marketing team, led by Drew Panayiotou, senior-VP marketing, has been working to reframe the retailer's brand proposition. Now it's ready to unveil its efforts. Best Buy's new tagline, rolling out this summer, is "Making technology work for you."

"Like many companies, eventually we have to turn marketing into profits and share -- share in the right categories," said Mr. Panayiotou. "Maybe we're not getting a ton of credit for it right now, but it's a brand that has all this upside on services and solutions."

To that end, Best Buy began rolling out its first "connected stores" this month. The remodeled stores feature a "central knowledge desk" that offers services, support, training and classes and an expanded Geek Squad presence will be located at the front of the store. The stores focus on selling mobile phones, tablets and e-readers as well as their accompanying service plans.

Already Best Buy has put big bucks behind marketing services -- including the 2011 Super Bowl ad featuring Justin Bieber and Ozzy Osbourne -- and promoting its Buy Back Program. But Mr. Panayiotou said focusing on technology rather than purchasing -- and highlighting actual innovators rather than celebs -- is a much "richer" place for the brand.

For years Best Buy has marketed its wares by focusing on the purchase, with taglines such as "Buyer be happy" and "You, happier." Both of these reinforced buying product, Mr. Panayiotou said. "We want to be a brand that 's about more than that ."

The back-to-school campaign from CP&B is the first to carry the new tagline. It focuses on college students who are innovating with technology.

Still, the retailer's woes have dominated headlines for months. CEO Brian Dunn stepped down in April following an "inappropriate relationship" with a female employee. Founder and chairman Richard Schulze left after it was revealed that he had been aware of the relationship and did not alert other company directors. And in an unrelated move, Global CMO Barry Judge departed in May; Stephen Gillett took on some of his duties.

"We're just continuing to move forward," Mr. Panayiotou said, noting that he's been explaining the marketing team's strategy to the new guard and that so far, the new execs are on board. "It hasn't been a distraction so much as a confirmation that ... this is the right direction."

The real test will be whether the new brand positioning and amped-up campaign can turn around slumping sales. Same-store sales fell 1.7% in the most recent fiscal year and 1.8% the year prior. In the three months ended May 5, same-store sales dropped 5.3%.

Mr. Panayiotou said the new strategy is based on months of research. Focus groups explored how Best Buy measures up to the likes of Walmart, Amazon and Target . And taglines with the word "technology" were tested against taglines without it.

Spending during the back-to-school period will be up year-over-year. Best Buy is adding cinema and a Pinterest page as well as pop-up stores in 10 markets and events at universities around the country. Best Buy will also have a presence with ads airing on NBC during the Olympics.

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