A couple of weeks ago I provided a short list of brands that had disrupted their category and grown as a result of being different. I could have added PayPal, Airbnb or Uber to that list, but the one brand that I really should have added was Amazon.
Thanks in no small part to the strategic focus of its founder Jeff Bezos, Amazon has grown to become the seventh most valuable brands in the world worth a stunning $99 billion, an increase of 1,554% since we first issued the BrandZ Top 100 Most Valuable Global Brand Ranking in 2006. In the process Amazon has left a trail of dead, bankrupt and struggling brands in its wake.
As some of my colleagues are aware, I was much taken with Jeff Bezos’ 2016 letter to Amazon’s shareholders. In it, Amazon’s founder once again re-iterates the importance of staying a Day 1 company, as he did in his first, 1997 letter, and suggests that,
“Day 2 is stasis. Followed by irrelevance. Followed by excruciating, painful decline. Followed by death. “
So what is Bezos’ strategy for staying a brand in a permanent state of innovation? Reading between the lines I would suggest:
Look to the long-term and aim for market leadership
Put the customer first
Experiment, decide fast, learn fast
Bezos’ obsession with the customer is well-known, for instance, he once said,
“If there’s one reason we have done better than of our peers…over the last six years, it is because we have focused like a laser on customer experience, and that really does matter, I think, in any business. It certainly matters online, where word-of-mouth is so very, very powerful.”
Not that it detracts from Amazon’s real success in delivering a compelling customer experience, but one thing I would note is that Amazon has tapped into three fundamental motivations of modern day consumers. People today want things easy, cheap and now. However, the really important thing is the way that Bezos and team has built on those needs rather than simply responding to them. In his letter to shareholders Bezos states,
“There are many advantages to a customer-centric approach, but here’s the big one: customers are always beautifully, wonderfully dissatisfied, even when they report being happy and business is great. Even when they don’t yet know it, customers want something better, and your desire to delight customers will drive you to invent on their behalf. No customer ever asked Amazon to create the Prime membership program, but it sure turns out they wanted it, and I could give you many such examples.”
I guess that is why Amazon has managed to retain the perception that it is different from other brands while growing meaning and salience.
Written by Nigel Hollis,Executive Vice President and Chief Global Analyst at Kantar Millward Brown.