The Branding Genius of Amazon Dash

First and foremost, let me make a confession: I’m pretty lazy. In fairness to me – as well as a desire to keep my job here at bloomfield knoble, I’m actually only lazy at some things – more specifically, things that I don’t consider important like: what I wear; what consumer goods I buy; consumption choices, etc. While this makes me an eternal source of frustration to my wife – it also makes me the perfect consumer for most advertising campaigns.

Agencies like bloomfield knoble work very hard to make sure that advertising campaigns capture and hold consumers through the entire sales cycle. Ads are designed to generate awareness among a relevant target audience. The message (hopefully) is engaging enough to drive action right then and there. Unfortunately, that’s rarely the case, so additional efforts are used to convert the consumer into a buyer (usually incentives) and then (again, hopefully) the consumer is so thrilled with their purchase that they become loyal customers. In today’s world of social media, the really great hope is that the loyal customers also become advocates for the brand. It seems pretty straight-forward. In fact, bloomfield knoble recently completed a campaign for a brand of milk that fit this model.

Most people are aware of milk, so we didn’t have to sell the category, but we did need to promote awareness of this particular brand of milk – and the features that made it unique among other types of milk – which we did through a variety of tactical advertising. This particular milk is mostly beneficial to kids, so we targeted parents of school age children and gave a reason to believe that was relevant to their concerns. An incentive was offered on packaging to drive conversion which also drove further brand interaction to generate loyalty and advocacy at the same time. The campaign was very successful by every key performance indicator measurement that had agreed to prior to the campaign. the great part about a campaign like this is that it even worked on lazy people – like me. I pay little attention to advertising – relevant or not – and am very rarely engaged enough to take immediate action on a brand. I am, however, categorically motivated, so when we run out of milk (a dangerous situation in my household since my kid is a chocolate milk addict) I am off to the store. I have very little recall regarding brands, so instead of getting the one we always get, I just get whatever offers me the best incentive (price, gift with purchase, perceived health benefits, whatever). So in the case of the bloomfield knoble campaign, I would have been motivated by the incentive on the package and made a purchase.

There is plenty of debate and formulas to help define this media mix – what percentage should be in the form of an incentive vs. traditional advertising, etc., but generally speaking the process is always the same and it’s a tried-and-true method to drive sales. Until now.

In case you missed it, and not sure how you could have, the Amazon Dash system contains a WiFi link and, when activated, sends an electronic order to Amazon to replace a relevant product. For consumable products that use a device such as a coffee machine or water filter, the Amazon Dash system is used as a service (known officially as the Amazon Dash Replenishment Service, or “DRS”) and is seamlessly integrated into the device. For other consumable products such as toilet paper or sport drinks, a separate external button can be used to re-order supplies.

As a consumer, I’m thrilled. I don’t ever want to worry about laundry detergent again. I can buy a washing machine that stores detergent and whatever the other stuff that goes into laundry is and once in a whenever that stuff has to be loaded time is here – boom – it’s on my doorstep. Thank you Amazon.

As an employee of an advertising agency, I’m kind of freaking out. The number of people who, like me, make decisions on purchase in-store is staggering. Even with mobile devices and coupons and social media, the majority of people who shop (especially for commodity items, like groceries) make purchasing decisions in store. We have always relied on branding elements, like recall, and incentives (like coupons) to drive purchase, but now we’re faced with the challenge of all of that going away. It used to be that brands would compete within a category – a person shopping in store would turn down the laundry aisle and then make a decision between brands – but now the battle is going to shift to an entirely new arena. Now the battle is going to be to get consumers to buy a specific type of washing machine – which has cut a business deal with a detergent brand – in order to drive purchase.

It’s not much of a stretch to think that business development managers are going to become the most important employees at a brand. The person who cuts a deal for their detergent to be carried by a new Dash-enabled washing machine is a hero. Good luck, brand managers, trying to get consumers to reprogram their washing machine to order something different.

So, what do we do? First and foremost, agencies have to start incorporating Amazon Dash as a point of difference in their pitch – get to consumers early – even if it is outside of the normal comfort zone. Conversely, if you work for a brand that isn’t going to land an Amazon Dash deal, it’s time to start extolling the evil of having decisions made for you. Next, it’s time to come up with a new model in which loyalty is defined by category – not brand – and is at the front of the sales cycle. Traditional models start with awareness – but now the first consideration is going to be a new definition of loyalty (does the consumer have an Amazon Dash device?).

I’m not trying to walk around with a sign that says, “the end of the advertising world is here” because I can’t be sure that this concept will reach market saturation, but it is Amazon – not some startup – and there are plenty of lazy people, like me, who welcome this technology. As such, we at bloomfield knoble are already pondering it, and it’s quite possible that our clients are too. Now, if I just had a button that finished my work for me . . .