A Brand Case Study: Amazon

When it comes to buying online, there’s no question about who runs the tables.  Named for the enormous South American river, Amazon.com is an aptly named brand powerhouse.  If you want to learn a thing or two about branding done right, Amazon has a few suggestions for you.

It wasn’t just low prices and free shipping that garnered the company $48.1 billion in revenues last year.  Amazon has achieved their amazing success for a variety of reasons, from their unique business model to the brilliant leadership behind the company.  But, today I want to focus on the Amazon brand.  Their website content is geared toward you.  Whoever you are, Amazon gets you, and they can sell, sell, sell.

The Good: Content Optimization

From time to time I get emails from online retailers in which I get the idea that they think they know me.  Perhaps I bought a copy of Moby-Dick.  They assume that I must be interested in Robert Louis Stevenson’s Kidnapped, too.  Sorry, not a fan.  Nautical themes and classic-status aside, the two books have very little in common.

But, Amazon… they get me.  They’ve worked out the kinks in their content optimization to deliver me the absolute perfect search results.  A week ago I was searching for flashing bike lights.  I came close to buying, but never committed.

What shows up in my email inbox a few days later?  A wonderful set of bike light recommendations.  The listing even begins with the low-priced, high-rated items I love!  Too tempting, Amazon.

Amazon’s website content is so powerful because it doesn’t just stay on the page.  It goes out to its users, searching them out through email and other sites on the Internet.  However, it’s never invasive, and never obnoxious.

Though I enjoy these emails, it’s easy to opt-out should I find them annoying.  Also, my Amazon customer profile sometimes gets off base.  One of the clients I write for sells their products through Amazon.  As I peruse the client’s site, learning more about their products in order to write blog posts, I end up clicking on a lot of products that I personally have no interest in.

However, Amazon thinks I’m in the market for this rather random commodity.  In order to avoid getting a slew of off-base recommendations, I can easily click “Fix this recommendation” to let Amazon know that I’m not interested in these kinds of products.  Problem solved.

The Good: User-Generated Content

The other strength behind the Amazon brand is the user-generated website content.  Amazon doesn’t simply include the manufacturer’s spiel about a product.  They don’t simply tack on their own two cents either.

Amazon opens itself up to allowing users to review products.  Everything is fair game.  Besides being helpful for prospective buyers, this tactic helps establish the Amazon brand as trustworthy.  Does this technique mean Amazon is a perfect glass house?  Of course not.  But, the company does engender trust through its user-review system.

The Good: Amazon is Your Friend

No, in case you’re wondering, this is not a paid endorsement.  (I really don’t think Amazon would need it anyway.)  And, I’m not even an Amazon fan-boy.  I probably only make a dozen or so purchases a year.  But, Amazon makes a point of being your friend without being creepy.

The company organizes your billing and shipping information in a friendly interface so that you can make one-click purchases, streamlining your experience, and adding to your convenience.  But, really, this practice isn’t a single unique feature.  This practice is indicative of the brand’s ethos.

Amazon aims to deliver a shopping experience that is completely painless.  They’re practically tripping over themselves (ever so gracefully) to make sure you have to do as little work as possible to make a purchase.

The Bad: Amazon Is a Little Creepy

So, on the heels of that statement, I have to say, some people may find Amazon a little creepy.  The New York Times Magazine ran a front-page article this past February that addresses this very issue, but with a focus on Target instead of Amazon.

The way major corporations are collecting customer profiles these days weirds out a lot of people.  Personally, I’ve come to embrace it, but I can understand why it might bother some shoppers.  The article demonstrates how Target came to find out about women’s pregnancies before the women told their close friends and family.

The backlash Target received was a lesson for all major retailers.  As for Amazon, they stay more on the normal side of creepy.  After all, Amazon wants to be your friend because they want to make a sale.  Amazon is careful not to let on that they might know more about you than your actual friends do.

Your Business

Now, of course, the point of this brand case study is not, “Oh look how wonderful Amazon is.”  We all knew that already.  The point is one of our favorite ones to make here at Content Equals Money: you can apply these same techniques to your business.  Really, you.

The first lesson is one in content optimization.  Use your brand to give your users what they want.  Then they’ll give you what you want: sales.

The second lesson is just as simple: user-generated content speaks volumes about your company’s integrity.  It boosts your brand image, and lends you credibility.  Of course, you want to moderate this user-generated content.  But, you’ve got to keep it real.

The third lesson: spend the time to make sure your brand knows your customers.  Connect with them; show you’re interested; don’t be creepy.

And, remember point number two from one of Renée’s recent blog posts: being a small business can actually be an advantage!  Don’t feel like you have to be Amazon for these techniques to work for you.  Sure, you don’t have the rocket scientists behind their SEO team, but you do have resources.  For starters, you’ve got one pretty smart content writing service right here!

How can you use Amazon’s techniques to develop your company’s brand?

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Ben Richardson is a writer based in Nashville, TN. While he loves writing on a variety of subjects, he's our go-to on all things related to branding and the creative aspects of content marketing. Follow him on Twitter!

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