There are now more than 15,000 geeks starring in a worldwide blockbuster

Our ‘man on the inside’ provides a view from the top of the marketing tree

Best Buy – the world’s largest consumer electronics retailer – has announced it is to open its first UK stores this year. The company already has a UK joint venture with the retail arm of Carphone Warehouse and also owns the much-acclaimed Geek Squad IT support business, which it acquired in 2002.

Geek Squad was a Minneapolis start-up that specialised in repairing and installing PCs. Back then, Geek Squad had revenues of $3m and around 50 techie employees or “geeks” as they chose to brand them. I’ve been thinking this week about an afterdinner speech I heard by Robert Stephens, the entrepreneur founder of Geek Squad. Stephens is a self-confessed geek and one of the smartest marketers I have ever had the privilege to meet.

For those classical process junkies out there, Stephens might not be your cup of tea, but for those of you who are fans of intuitive challenger-led marketing, his selftaught school of brand management should inspire you.

During the Q&A session, Stephens was asked how he goes about brand planning. He explained that he doesn’t really do brand planning – well, not in the textbook sense anyway. Instead, he chooses to think of his business as if it were a movie, with plenty of twists and turns along the way and hopefully a few sequels to follow.

Stephens wants to see where the script takes him, to dare to dream and to be sure that the cast of geeks starring in his film are thrilled to be part of the storyline. It is a beautifully simple approach that enables the business to set itself goals that might otherwise be just Hollywood dreams.

From one part-time geek in Minneapolis, there are now more than 15,000 geeks starring in a worldwide blockbuster, inspired by a clearly articulated vision and powered by a fabulous piece of branding that is rooted in category insight. Customers find it memorable and Stephens’ geeks are proud to represent it. Geek Squad is a truly world-class marketing case study. It is born out of a strong business idea rather than being the result of a manufactured brand planning process.

The next time you write a brand plan, ask yourself whether it would make a great movie.


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