To be honest I am not a really big fan of Bol.com. I am much more an ambassador of supporting your local stores, especially since the coronavirus. My dislike for this company began one year ago when I was an intern at Stumpel. Stumpel is a bookshop that has been located in West Friesland for more than 140 years. You can imagine that they are having a hard time right now. With more than 12 physical stores and 1 head office in Zwaag, they have to fight harder for their place than ever. A store like Stumpel fears for their future since the arrival of bol.coms branding.
Bol.com has almost every single product that I can think of, including books. The reason why a bookstore like Stumpel is afraid of them is because of their branding, shipping time and customer service. Sometimes when you order something in the morning, you will receive it the same day. The smaller stores like Stumpel cannot fight with the big companies like this.
Love hate relationship
You can imagine my dislike but I do have to give them a compliment about their branding. They are very topical. With a sense of humor they respond well to current events that the world is dealing with. In almost every social media post they link a product from their catalog to a news item. For example: last month, King Willem Alexander went to Greece with his family for a vacation. He did this in the same week as the press conference, where it became clear that everyone must stay at home for the time being to stay safe. We can all conclude that it was not a great timing from the royal family. Bol.com picked this up immediately and made a social media post about it with a good dose of humor. You can see their social media post right here. In this social media post they show a suitcase. This is an item that the webshop sells as well. In this social media post they show a review that king Willem Alexander could have posted. The king came back immediately 1 day later and so – according to bol.com – should have returned his suitcase because it was not necessary anymore.
Make people laugh
I think the strong side of their branding is their humor. Their social media followers laugh at it, tag their friends and then share the message because of the joke. Because of this strategy in their branding, they reach a huge network because everyone shares the message en masse. Not only is it genius, it is also free advertising.
Another point I really like is that they don’t come across as commercial. This has of course been thought about and they achieve a lot of profit with this, but it is very indirect and subtle. I also sometimes come across companies on social media that only promote their products. Buy this, buy that. For this reason I find the branding very strong at bol.com because they bring in their customers through humor. In addition, their jokes and sharp comments also unconsciously allow you to see their entire catalog. This is a reminder of how many products they do offer. They have literally everything you can imagine in the most crazy colors, shapes and price ranges.
Daily pet peeves
Of course there is not always a news item where Bol.com can make a joke about. They also respond to daily pet peeves. For example, I think every student who does not live close to school can relate to this one. Nowadays I am a student creative business. My school is in Amsterdam but I live in Hoorn. Hoorn is a small historic fishing village from the VOC. I think it is half an hour with the train to Amsterdam. No matter what time you take the train, there are always complications. We all know the feeling when the train doesn’t run at all. The bol.com social media team set to work on this. They decided to promote their toy trains (toy category) with the comment: “These trains will run!”
The world is in your hands
We can conclude that you don’t always have to be commercial to be successful. As a (starting) entrepreneur you do not have to flood your customers with your product. Bol.com shows that you can use humor as branding. It has many results, such as: more reach, more engagement, a whole new network, and people will create a positive opinion about your company. Branding can also increase your sales and accessibility, as long as you respond well to the needs of the world.
Even though I did not like Bol.com at first, I often laugh about their social media posts. It is a really unique way to interact with your followers and because of this strategy, they have a lot of free advertisement all around the internet! So my tip as a branding expert: “Laugh a little bit more and spice it up”.