Tag Archives: amazon

Three Common Mistakes Made When Launching or Changing a Brand

Last week, Amazon laid off 150 employees in its Amp division, the app that was marketed, as Amp Vice President John Ciancutti explained, as “a new version of radio.” Amp allows anyone to play DJ with their own live radio show and have access to the Amazon Music library to curate their own playlists.

The Amp app launched just eight months ago.

In last week’s announcement, Amazon spokesperson Rebecca Silverstein hinted at Amp’s struggles by saying, “At Amazon we think big, experiment, and invest in new ideas to delight customers. We also continually evaluate the progress and potential of our products and services to deliver customer value, and we regularly make adjustments based on those assessments.”

Amp isn’t shutting down, and it may well end up being successful. But its stumbles out of the gate are an important reminder of some of the missteps to avoid when launching or changing a brand.

  1. Don’t launch or change a brand until all your potential target consumers can use it without friction. 

Amp’s biggest mistake may be its platform (un) availability. Start with the desktop experience. I often listen to radio stations and Spotify while I work. With one click, I’m in my Spotify dashboard. You can’t play Amp on your desktop, but it does have a QR code to download the app. On my phone, it does launch it, but it is the web version. Why? Amp still doesn’t have an app available for Android.

“Yeah, but it’s available on Alexa” isn’t enough.

It is strangely reminiscent of the launch of a different audio platform, Clubhouse, which only made its app initially available on iPhones.

Inside Radio reported a radio example last week, in which Alexa was playing the wrong station after frequency and format shifts after an ownership change. The Alexa skill simply hadn’t been updated.

  1. Don’t launch or change a brand without making a serious marketing investment.

Sure, there was a time when consumers would just happen upon your brand. They just “discovered” your radio station while they were “surfing the dial.” Or they’d hear about it because, you know, “everyone’s talking about it.”

You simply cannot assume that ultra-distracted consumers in today’s ultra-competitive climate are just going to find your brand. Clubhouse’s launch couldn’t have come at a more perfect time. Introduced in March 2020, its initial artificial growth was fueled by unusual consumer behavior brought on by the pandemic. In early 2021, it turned down a $4 billion offer from Twitter. By late 2021, it was #60 in the App Store’s ‘social networking’ category right behind Chispa, Skout, and Hit on Me!

At least part of the problem is Clubhouse relied on its initial buzz and when people forgot about it, they forgot about it. There was no notable marketing to remind them it existed. Additionally, when you’re launching a new type of product that consumers aren’t familiar with (as was the case with Amp and Clubhouse), the marketing needs to educate consumers about what it is and how to use it. That takes even more money.

  1. Don’t launch or change a brand until the product is absolutely ready.

You may have noticed recently that Amazon isn’t the only tech giant’s stock getting killed on Wall Street of late. Meta, the company formerly known as Facebook, lost 32% of its value in October. It certainly wasn’t a reflection of the stock market at large. October was the best month for the Dow Jones since 1976. As evidenced by its name, Meta is all in on the metaverse and its Horizon Worlds platform. The problem, apparently, is that it sucks. A leaked memo from Meta VP Vishal Shah implies it’s so clunky their own employees won’t use it. (For what it’s worth, my 16-year-old son agrees.) Maybe they’ll fix it. But maybe they should have waited to launch it.

“First in wins” is not an all-encompassing statement. First to market only works if the consumer experience is aligned with expectations. Otherwise, negative perceptions will build that the brand may never be able to overcome.

Treat brand launches and changes with the attention and delicate care that they deserve. Don’t rush, align the message and experience, and then don’t do it on the cheap.

Otherwise, you’ll be stuck in a vicious cycle of brand repair or spinning your wheels with launches that go nowhere.

How Amazon Uses Research for World Domination

“Hey let’s put that song in rotation, it sounds good on the air.”

“I think that morning show benchmark is really gaining traction. My wife and her friends love it.”

“The station is sounding too old. It’s probably time to start playing some newer music.”

Is this is how your radio station conducts research?

Radio is fighting daily battles within a never-ending war for top-of-mind awareness. This is no time to trust your request line or mother-in-law for market intelligence. Rolling the dice is not a sound strategy.

Amazon is often rightfully credited with coming up with innovative ideas. How Amazon evolves those ideas into big, successful initiatives is by utilizing market research.

When the company launched Amazon Prime, it offered unlimited two-day shipping for $79 per year. The price increased to $99 and now $119, but also includes added features like Amazon Music and Amazon Prime Video. How did Amazon navigate which features to focus on and which price points were viable?


Amazon doesn’t just use research to determine how to grow – it uses research to know when to quit.

Even Amazon fails sometimes, as with the Fire Phone, Amazon Local and Amazon Destinations. By using research to track customer perceptions and product/market fit, Amazon was able to mitigate further losses and shift resources into profitable segments.

Do you really know what’s working and what’s not working on your radio station? What if you’re running a feature that’s not compatible with the brand and you have no idea? What if the only measurement you have of your morning show is ratings and you don’t actually know if its familiarity and appeal are growing?

Rolling the dice is, as they say, a crapshoot.

Amazon founder Jeff Bezos likes to say “We start with the customer and work backward.”

Are you truly focused on your customer?

Sure, you can gather the troops in a conference room and detail your target listener on a whiteboard. But wouldn’t it be nicer to actually know who your listeners are instead of guessing based on wobbly ratings? Wouldn’t it be helpful to know which ones have the best potential of converting to P1s?

You better believe Amazon knows all about its competitors, probably better than their competitors know themselves.

They’ve done their research.

How much do you know about your competition and its listeners?

Radio should constantly innovate with fresh, new ways of entertaining its consumers. By conducting research to identify strengths, weaknesses and opportunities, you can focus on what works and feel confident your strategy is sound and optimized for success.

It sure beats rolling the dice.

Why Toys “R” Us Is Closing

Tuesdays With Coleman

Digital photography killed Kodak’s business.”

“Netflix put Blockbuster out of business.”

“Amazon put Toys “R” Us out of business.”

When an iconic brand goes under, the blame game always commences.

The truth is, Amazon didn’t put Toys “R” Us out of business. Neither did Target or Wal-Mart.

Toys “R” Us put Toys “R” Us out of business.

My colleague Warren Kurtzman wrote last week about how essential it is for every brand to have a clearly defined base position. But is that enough?

What’s a better base position than “the photography company”? Or “the movie store”? Or “the toy store”?

Kodak, Blockbuster and Toys “R” Us didn’t just have strong positions in their categories, they owned the dominant positions. The problem is, each of these brands lacked positive brand depth beyond their base positions.

An engineer at Kodak actually invented digital photography. In 1975. Navigating the consumer through the digital space using the brand equity of Kodak moments would have been a perfect and natural complement to its base position. Unfortunately, Kodak couldn’t see beyond its history as a film company, and competitors swooped in.

Blockbuster had an incredible, dominating base position. Unfortunately, it had negative brand depth in the form of late fees, which left it vulnerable. By the time Blockbuster removed late fees, it was too late.

If Blockbuster had entered the DVD-by-mail category or streaming category first, the company would quite likely still be around. Blockbuster had the chance to buy Netflix in the early 2000s for $50 million.  Today Netflix is valued over $100 billion, worth more than every media company that’s not named Disney.

Would Netflix have had that growth under the leadership of Blockbuster? Probably not, and that’s the point.

Netflix started as a DVD-by-mail company, but its base position centered around convenient entertainment delivery. All the moves and innovations Netflix has made, including doubling down on streaming and adding original programming, has been complementary to its base position. Netflix added brand depth.

Amazon started out as an online bookstore that became an online marketplace. Its moves and innovations, including ease of app use, marketing automation, customer service and free two-day delivery, have all supported its base position as an online delivery service.

Toys “R” Us had an enviable base position and an emotional connection to legions of children who wanted to be Toys “R” Us kids.

Where did the emotional connection go?

Although the road would have been challenging, Toys “R” Us could have added brand depth to its base position. It may have been through incredible marketing automation techniques (like Amazon and Starbucks) or hiring an ace social media manager (like Wendy’s). It could have been a research program that let kids test toys. It may have been partnerships with kids’ museums around the country.

Not to say any of those ideas would have definitely worked, but Toys “R” Us needed to try long before Amazon posed a significant threat.

Integrating Babies “R” Us into Toys “R” Us stores was definitely not the answer–it detracted focus from its own brand.

Last year, Toys “R” Us CEO David Brandon said the chain hoped to add playrooms where kids could try out toys and spaces for birthday parties.

Unfortunately, they never got the chance to give them a shot.

When we work with radio stations, we illustrate the base position on our Image Pyramid, but also explain the perils of a misguided Image Pyramid–which is what Kodak, Blockbuster, and Toys “R” Us all ran into.

Coleman Insights Image Pyramid

Clearly define your base position. Once you do, never stop adding brand depth.