Amazon is without a doubt the most important and influential retailer in the western world.
In 2015, it became the fastest company ever to reach $100 billion in annual sales. It has changed the face of new tech and retail as we know it, disrupting an entire industry with a minimum of fuss. Having done that however, Amazon started on its own products. And through its marketing, made them game-changers too. So what’s their secret?
The best place to fail in the world
Amazon states that it is particularly distinctive in its attitude to failure. CEO Jeff Bezos described Amazon as “the best place in the world to fail.” He elaborated on how this ties into their creativity, stating, “To invent you have to experiment, and if you know in advance that it’s going to work, it’s not an experiment.”
Most companies love the idea of invention and innovation, but they’re not willing to fail to get there. Amazon is willing to embrace that risk. They take big chances on wild ideas with the expectation that one of those successes will pay off, and it will pay back far more than the original investment. Bezos wants the company to be an ‘invention machine’.
When it comes to new tech, throw out ideas
Just as it tries different things with products and new tech – remember the ill-fated Amazon Fire smartphone? – Amazon has brought the same approach to their marketing. The company isn’t afraid to throw ideas out there and see what sticks.
Alexa’s conversational capabilities were already the result of extensive development and testing. They cut latency, or response time, to half the industry average. As well as trialing countless reply styles to see what people preferred. For its adverts, Amazon tried as many different versions as possible to maximise their chances of success.
Early testing has already told them that music was going to be the entry point, but Amazon was determined that the Echo became much more than just a speaker. So it listened to customers and built on what they were using Alexa for.
From this, Amazon created over 100 different 10 second clips highlighting potential uses of Alexa. From parents getting information on dangerous plants their child had picked, to putting a ‘butterfly birthday’ in their calendar as they watch a chrysalis.
The ridiculous nature of many of these scenarios was a strategic move by Amazon. Not only did the humour encourage viewers to share or discuss them, but the campaign felt like a customer-focused strategy. When in fact, it was product-focused. While they portrayed specific users in very specific situations, the far-fetched nature of each one led viewers to infer that Alexa had plenty of normal utility as well.
Agile marketing for quick success
Once they’d hit a winner with an advert, they picked it up and ran with it, a classic example of agile marketing in action: taking a high-value idea and devoting time to make it successfully quickly. Tech firms should take note of both this and another way Amazon has launched Echo and Alexa to such acclaim: integration.
Alexa was always planned to be high-enough quality that other firms would want it. Samsung and Ford are among the names to have adopted it. Amazon also made it compatible with successful players in the niche, rather than trying to compete.
Giving Alexa the capabilities to order an Uber, instead of some proprietary Amazon lift service, meant that Uber’s popularity benefited Amazon too. By marketing the Echo as a facilitator to other big names, Amazon was able to piggyback on the success of other companies.
Amazon’s 5 principles for tech marketing
So how can we replicate this success? Amazon’s strategy utilises 5 principles we can take into our own marketing efforts:
Experiment. In product development and advertising, you never know what concepts will resonate with an audience.
Listen to customers. People will happily talk about things they like and this is often the best way to identify your strengths.
Know your focus. Whether you’re building a buzz with a wide-reaching product-based campaign or targeting a specific demographic, know your aims and don’t be afraid to mix and match!
Be agile. As soon as you’ve got a high-value idea, sprint to get it completed and reap the rewards.
Join forces. Be aware of opportunities to partner up for more reach, whether it’s with a local sports team, a recent film release, or a global lift service.