jeff bezos

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Inexpensive and Easy.

A quote from The New York Times today points to market forces that have made Jeff Bezo the richest man in the world.

“One is the unequal impact of digital technology, which has reduced costs and brought convenience to many.”  

Digital technology has allowed Mr. Bezos to gather $160B in personal wealth, simply by making shopping less expensive and easier.  Less expensive and easy are, not surprisingly, money-makers.

Brand strategy makes marketing less expensive and easier.  It does so by pointing all company actors in a similar direction. It gives them direction for their innovations. It corrals vendors. And it programs consumers to understand quite clearly the value of a product or service.

Marketing is strengthened by strong blocking and tackling. But it needs creativity. Some on the creative side view brand strategy as limiting; as creating limits to creative outputs. Nothing could be further from the truth. Brand strategy sustains creativity. It gives creativity a reason for being. A goal.



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Jeff Bezos is one daring dude. (Wanted to use the F-bomb, but mom might be reading.) By purchasing Whole Foods he sent a shiver through the stock market, knocking some competitive grocers down significantly. He announced yesterday that Whole Foods will cut prices beginning this Monday. Some analysts predict as much as 15-25%. Oohfah. Mr. Bezos doesn’t give a rat’s ass about profitability.  He has enough money in the bank to lose near-term so he can win long-term.  A player.

Were I Mr. Bezos, here’s what I would do. Take it a step further. Reduce prices even more for one whole month. Bring prices down to Aldi range. Costco range. But only for a month. Use it as a “trial balloon.” Trial is a promotional tool known for breaking behaviors. Once people are actually in Whole Foods and shop there a cycle or two, they will be fans.

Many people who volume shop at Costco and Sam’s Club throw away perishable food. “I can buy 20 tomatoes for the price of 6. Even if I toss out 10, I come out ahead.”  Whole Foods can and will educate shoppers about better-for-you-food, healthier shopping and less waste, something that’s not happening in a Costco or BJs.  

The promotional month will be crazy — with high traffic and supply hiccups, but it will be worth it.  “Prime” the Amazon pump, Mr. Bezos. Prime the pump.



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When Jeff Bezos is quoted as saying future Earthlings will be living in space – as he did in an article in today’s newspapers – was he tripping? I don’t think so.  It’s probably going to happen. Just as there will be self-driving cars and a cure for cancer. But the likelihood that Blue Origin, his space travel company, will be around or even contribute to space life is low. This so-called “space shot” bet by one the world’s most brilliant and effective marketers is, however, instructive.

Space shot proclamations are not just the provenance of billionaires. They are for business owner of every stripe and color.  While with Zude, a web start-up, I once proclaimed “In the future every person will have their own website.” And I wasn’t talking about a Facebook page either.

Every good business owner needs to understand the blocking and tackling of business “today,” but also they must see the “future.”  Only then can they help shape the future.

When a pizza parlor owner says s/he will make the best tasting pizza in town, then buys ingredients from Restaurant Depot with all the other pizza shops, that’s blocking and tackling; it’s not a moon shot. The best brand builders and marketers desire the future. It keeps them up at night and sometimes makes for wonderful dreams.





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Fast forward 12 years to a time when Amazon is an online geezer and Wal-Mart is the young, hip tech retailer.  Am I tripping? Nope. How can it happen? Through strategy. Only through strategy.

What can Wal-Mart do to trump world-beater Amazon in online retail? First, it must look at customer care-abouts. Customers want fair prices. They want good value — products that will last. They want product accessibility: same day, same hour, delivered to any address. They’d like to be rewarded for loyalty. Predictive refills would be nice. Lastly, they’d love to remove some carbons from the earth’s footprint.

If Wal-Mart wants to out-Amazon Amazon, it needs to start thinking about these strategies. While Mr. Bezos is playing media mogul, cloud jockey and Steve Jobs, Wal-Mart should focus on the above care-abouts and blaze a new retail trail. Create a new retail equation.

The future is up for grabs. For everybody. Always has been.



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I’ve written about the brand diaspora as it relates to Microsoft. Diaspora meaning “the spread or dissemination of something originally confined to a local, homogeneous group, as a language or cultural institution.” It’s a topic about which a very boring branding book could be written.

It will be very interesting to see how Amazon handles branding as it continues to take over the retail world. On Long Island, 52 A&P stores are being sold or closed. Wal-Mart earning have slowed, only being kept positive by international sales. Online commerce accounts for a growing portion of all things purchased and it’s not slowing down. Ask real estate sales people – count the brown paper covered windows in local strip malls.

En masse, retail is changing — and the winner is and will continue to be Amazon. Amazon is getting into the industrial distribution business. Hear that MSC Direct? Hear that Grainger? Do you think Mr. Bezos is not thinking about food distribution logistics? And ways to make locally sourced food products cheaper to purchase and deliver?

The future is not now. But one can see it in blurry focus…and Amazon will def be at its center. Plan ahead defenders.



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Couple of things.

There is a new tech writer gaining momentum. His name is Farhad Manjoo and he writes the “State Of The Art” column in The New York Times. Read him, you will get smarter.  Since the half-funny, very good tech analyst David Poque left the confines of the Times for Yahoo, I’ve been seeking a Walter Mossberg-like writer at the Times. Mr. Manjoo may be it. He’s bold, thoughtful, not averse to homework and understands the tech user. Great writers are prescient when it comes to trends and usability, so let’s see if he can keep it up.

His column today was about Amazon. And that’s the second thing. Everybody knows Jeff Bezos is a tech top dog. Amazon’s journey has been fun to watch. Unlike Microsoft, whose cash cow(s) allowed it to buy and launch a number of public duds, Mr. Bezos has launched a luncheonette’s worth of products with varying degrees of success. From books to retail to devises to video and shipping, Amazon touches more consumers in more ways than most brands. Add to that Mr. Bezos move into publishing and one can assume the data he retrieves and the behaviors he notes are preparation for other very interesting plays. But unlike Microsoft, Amazon doesn’t get dinged in the press and among tech elites. 

The difference between Amazon and Microsoft is that Microsoft pizzled away money on new endeavors but always kept a huge bank — Amazon on the other hand continues to lack any meaningful profit.

As a brand planner, Amazon confounds me. As a consumer and business dude I really like them. For a first-to-market company, they do a lot of second-to-market things.

Messrs. Manjoo and Bezos are players. And both are going to be exciting to watch. Peace.


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Jeff Bezos visited The Washington Post yesterday and was tweeted as saying “I’ve always felt that the most powerful minds in the world can hold powerful inconsistencies.” Well, if the most powerful minds in the world (Einstein, Franklin, Churchill) offer inconsistencies what can we expect of brands?  Brands need a plan, all the more.

We know when a brand pushes innovation, perception of that brand’s cost goes up. When a brand promotes tasty, it conveys less-than-a-healthy food choice. These values are inconsistent related to a positive consumer value proposition and managing.

A good brand plan offers consistency.  A brand plan and the brand managers who create, support, and follow it are charged with removing as much inconsistency in the brand experience as is humanly possible. Protect the plan and you improve marketing cost-effective.  Those who do, become zealots….my favorite kind of people.

The people at The Washington Post have a brand plan but they know about inconsistency. It fuels their business. Mr. Bezos gets their world (for now) and ours. Peace! 

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Amazon Vs. Wal-Mart

amazon box

There’s a big war a brewin’ between Amazon and Wal-Mart. Supposedly, it’s a holiday season price skirmish, but really it’s a war for the future of shopping.

Amazon, whose sales are a fraction of Wal-Mart’s, owns the online shopping space. is growing faster than Amazon, but those are just statistics, which we know can lie. This shopping war is between online and offline. Currently, online shopping accounts for about 4% of all sales, but some projection see it moving as high as 15%.

You know who loves to shop online? Single, twenty 20 and 30 year olds –especially the ones who are kicking ass in their jobs. In a brief recently, I called this target “Power-Ups.” They’re achievers, very wired, and have big careers in their sights. After work, Power-Ups like to come home to someone…but the someone they come home to every night is often a box from Amazon. “Honey, I’m home!” This target will marry and marry well, and in addition to being conditioned to buy online, they will buy high margin products. A value target to be sure.

Amazon knows this. Jeff Bezos knows this. When these 20 and 30 years olds become 40 and 50 year olds, they’ll still be loyal customers and have passed on the Amazon online shopping gene to their progeny.

Wal-Mart can plan all they want, but in my mind they won’t be able to be a leader in both online shopping and offline shopping. You can’t be black and white. Very, very interesting. Don’t be surprised if Wal-Mart starts sniffing around Amazon with checkbook in hand.

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