Amazon.com chief Jeff Bezos took to prime time to talk about his company’s future, sending shock waves across the internet with his reveal of Amazon Prime Air. But was it a PR grand slam or a PR gaffe? Never afraid to take opposing points of view, our very own Aaron Gordon and Jami Baker squared off to evaluate Bezos’ performance.
Cast aside all the buzz and Jeff Bezos’ 60 Minutes appearance amounts to a short-term win in exchange for what could shape up to be a long-term nightmare.
The flaws in Bezos’ interview fall into three categories: 1) potential damage to the Amazon brand, 2) the decision to set unreasonably high expectations in the eyes of the public, and 3) the endless speculation – and skepticism – that has been set into motion following 60 Minutes.
First off, Amazon has now attached the word ‘drone’ – and all the stigma that comes with it – to its global brand. Given the surge of negativity surrounding the US government’s drone and surveillance programs, I’m not so sure this is an asset. When people now hear the words “Amazon.com,” the image of a black module hovering over suburban America will come to mind. Is that really what Bezos intended?
The second flaw has less to do with the brand than the business. Amazon just set the bar very high for itself by revealing a program that may not even win approval in the end due to logistical and political reasons. The list of hurdles en route to the drone program actually taking off is endless. Will Amazon Prime Air change the way people receive packages, or will it go down in history as a high-priced fool’s errand? Surely Amazon could find a better way to spend its R&D dollars. Right?
Lastly is the flood of ridicule that has surfaced in the days since 60 Minutes aired. Every mention of the program seems to be accompanied by guesswork about whether the drones will end up landing on roofs or in swimming pools instead of their intended targets. And what about the risk of theft once the pod gets to its destination? The list of questions goes on. Some believe that any buzz is good buzz, but when the skepticism overshadows the excitement, you have to call the company’s roll-out into question. Did Bezos say enough to allay the public’s concerns?
I’m all for making waves, but not when the potential risks outweigh the immediate rewards. It seems Jeff Bezos took this one a bit too far. Only time will tell, but shareholders and analysts will be keeping a close watch on the drone program. Let’s hope they like what they see.
The Amazon brand has been consistent with steady growth and dominant market share in the e-commerce space, but PR Gimmicks have never been their specialty.
All that changed on Sunday when Jeff Bezos took to the airwaves to introduce Prime Air, the best thing derived from drones in a long, long time. This was analogous to Apple’s iconic launches of the MacBook Air and the iPad, only Bezos introduced his latest innovation in front of millions of viewers tuned into prime time TV.
The timing was no accident. Holiday season, when consumer mindshare means everything, is right around the corner. And recent months have seen a slow trickle of not-so-favorable news about Amazon, from headlines about the company’s lack of profitability, to reports of unsavory workplace conditions and questionable hiring practices. All of that is forgotten for the time being.
Bezos’ 60 Minutes performance sent a strong message to the world – and to Wall Street – that Amazon thinks big, even when the law is not on the company’s side. To heck with FAA regulations and practical challenges; this is a company that’s as determined as ever to continue reshaping the retail industry. Amazon Prime Air is the latest manifestation of this brand promise.
The most important takeaway from the segment may have been about dividends, not drones. Amazon’s sales are through the roof, but the company isn’t turning a profit. Bezos’ ability to project into the future while showing a steady hand that’s laser-focused on growing market share (even at the expense of short-term earnings) should go a long way toward instilling confidence among Amazon stock holders.
Well played, Bezos.