retail news in context, analysis with attitude

by Kevin Coupe

I was reading a piece in Variety the other day that made an observation about Amazon’s branding confusion that I hadn’t thought about before:

“It’s one of the most powerful brands in the world, but for the folks behind Amazon’s entertainment offerings, it’s been the source of ongoing brand confusion. ‘Amazon’ is an online retailer founded in 1994 by Jeff Bezos, while ‘Amazon Prime’ is the subscription service that offers two-day free shipping. ‘Amazon Studios’ produces original TV shows and films, while ‘Amazon Prime Video’ is the specific portion of Amazon Prime devoted to streaming TV shows and films — both from Amazon Studios and other sources. (And those shows themselves are deemed ‘Amazon Originals.’ Confused yet?)”

The Variety piece goes on:

“That brand confusion isn’t an issue with Netflix and Hulu, which are purely in the streaming video business. (Apple, which is in multiple businesses like Amazon, hopes to differentiate its upcoming streamer by calling it ‘Apple TV Plus’ — but it will likely run into similar branding issues.)”

We spend a lot of time here talking about Amazon’s ubiquitous nature, of its desire to create an all-enveloping ecosystem, to make it irresponsible to not be a member of Amazon Prime, to touch in some way virtually every part of everyday life. We talk about it and, truth be told, I admire it.

But even Amazon, apparently, can get the branding blues. It may own “the everything store,” but “everything” is a lot to wrap your eyes and mind and arms around. It leaves room - not a ton of room, but some - for the competition to be expert at something, not everything, to become a resource for the consumer and not just a source of product.

That’s what the independent booksellers business has largely found out … as noted here yesterday, by becoming an anchor of authenticity, rooted in specific shopper knowledge and often specialized product selections, they’ve managed to be about something, not everything.

It is like Jack Palance’s Curly says in City Slickers when asked by Billy Crystal’s character what the secret of life is. He holds up one finger and says, simply, “One thing. Just one thing.” (You can see the scene here.)

This morning, it is Curly that provides us with the Eye-Opener.
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