What’s the Amazon brand? Where’s the Essence? And how can Jeff Bezos be replaced? (2023)

  • Branding

What’s the Amazon brand? Where’s the Essence? And how can Jeff Bezos be replaced? (1)

Having read the compelling biography on Jeff Bezos, ‘The Everything Store: Jeff Bezos and the Age of Amazon” by Brad Stone, I came away believing that Amazon is a long-term short and the main reason pertains to the Amazon Brand.I must qualify that it would be a verylong long-term short. In the meantime, Amazon is likely to be a great investment vehicle since they continue to pioneer and are consistently upsetting the apple cart (although not yet the Apple Cart). Investing is a matter of time (and timing) and I’m no wizard in this regard. Unlike most stock market aficionados and analysts, I am not focused on the Amazon business model* and its profitability (or current lack thereof) per se.I look at Amazon with my own rose-tinted glasses of a brand marketer. Is Amazon creating a sustainable brand?

Amazon – The Classic U.S. success story

In many ways, Amazon represents the best of what America has to offer. A founder and CEO who thinks BIG. A spirit of innovation. A can do attitude.

A founder who, while exceedingly wealthy, remains hungry and is still deeply hands on. Bezos has a talent — apparently shared with Steve Jobs per the Isaacson biography — for reality distortion. He has vision. He has has made it his business to become the most customer centric organization on Earth. Behind his vision and 20% ownership, Bezos is all about the long-term which, in a stock market-run world, is an exceptional quality — dare I say, an asset. The issue is that the largest and most valuable part of Amazon lies in the form of the founder.

(Video) How Jeff Bezos Keeps Amazon Ahead of the Competition | Inc.

Amazon brand – the long term value

However, Amazon and the Amazon brand is being constructed in a manner that I believe is not built to last (one of Jeff Bezos’ favorite books). Even if Amazon is built to grow fast for the foreseeable future, the issue is that all good things come to an end, especially when it comes to publicly traded companies. The cycle of growth will inevitably come to end, especially as/when distributor margins are tightened (ignoring the current margin-less existence that Bezos is affording the company in order to invest in the future). The question is what are the durable and meaningful values of the Amazon brand that will help carry it into the future. There are the five prime reasons for my less-positive position on Amazon’s long-term value:

  1. No Successor. The issue of a successor is a shorter term issue. There is — worse, there can be — no viable successor to Jeff Bezos. Bezos will have to step down at one point, if it doesn’t happen by force — as highlighted by the recent health scare while holidays in the Galapagos, this new year’s,just ahead of his 50th birthday. Beyond his brilliant mind, his vision and his ability to steer the company through twenty glorious (if at times perilous) years of growth, Bezos is irreplaceable. His brash manner, his indomitable spirit and his boldness are signature characteristics of the founder. For someone to be able to pursue the same approach will just not be possible. Taking the brazen decisions that have defined Bezos’ reign takes not just a certain profile, but a type of ownership structure and decision-making system. Moreover, is Bezos able/keen to find and foster a legitimate heir? Apple is an interesting parallel. Only time will tell if Tim Cook will be able to take Apple to the next level. For now, the jury is out.
  2. No Higher Purpose. The internal slogan of Amazon is defined as “Work Hard. Have Fun. Make History.” When I talk about the Marketing of the 5E’s, I refer to the Essence of a brand. This relates to having a higher purpose. The question is to what extent “making history” will be doing “good.” What is it about “making history” that resonates with its employees and customers? Making history by being the BIGGEST distributor or being the one to grow FASTEST to $100B, are not durable or empowering traits. Jeff Bezos’ Amazon has inscribed a powerful customer-centric creed. The Amazon philosophy is broadly speaking built around the concept that any investment must be geared to bring the customer value. Meanwhile, Amazon does not strive to serve a higher mission for the people. Bezos has personally invested in fabulous projects or entities such as the Space Origin, the Clock of the Long Now andthe Washington Post. However, these investments are personal. Bezos’ position is that philanthropy is not what the Amazon shareholder is seeking. I believe that shareholder value will come from having motivated and engaged employees who are prepared to go beyond. Without necessarily talking about philanthropy, Amazon needs a higher purpose beyond making money and becoming big. Having a higher purpose taps into ethics and emotions which deep down craft our beliefs and drive our motivation. It is my conviction that the employees’ desire to overachieve and give more than the average is one of the keys of creating long-term shareholder value.
  3. Employee Fulfillment. From reading the Bezos biography and anecdotal evidence, there seem to be a limited number of employees at Amazon that are genuinely “happy” and/or fulfilled based on an accepted culture of life/work imbalance. By constantly extracting the most out of its current employees, the likely consequence of employment at Amazon is burn-out or burn through. Such a ‘regime’ is not sustainable over the long term. What I would be interested in seeing is how more value can be inserted into the daily workflow for the employee. Fun is good, but in down years, fun has a nasty way of being squeezed out of the picture. I think that work/life balance is indeed difficult to reconcile with creating cutting edge shareholder value. However, there needs to be more life inserted into the course of day’s work.
  4. Value. The search for diminishing costs and EDLP (Every Day Low Price)will have its limits over time. Perhaps Bezos is creating the most efficient and effective distribution model existing. However, as a branding guy, the marketer’s role is to create value. Embedded in its EDLP strategy, Amazon seems to be all about subtractingvalue as much as possible, notwithstanding the exceptional and customized user experience.
  5. Product. In a market driven distributor model, margins are by definition thin. It’s all about volume. However, on its eCommerce site, Amazon is merely serving as an agent. Sure, there are good margins when Amazon serves as a marketplace. However, over time, having optimally negotiated and bilked its suppliers, Amazon will need its own products in order to extract higher margins. The Kindle is surely one of the answers. Certainly, in its arsenal, the AWS and Kindle are powerful arms. The question will be to what extent Amazon will be able to provide white label products and, along the way, substantiate its brand with hard core goods?

Certainly, to talk of Amazon’s demise might be completely inappropriate near term. Any “short” on Amazon is a long term issue. What will delay that decline? Two of the keys will beAutomation (removing the human component) and Innovation – (AWS, 3D printing, drone delivery…). For now, Bezos is alive and kicking. Momentum is good and the market opportunity is vast. So, for the near term, the Amazon prospects remain good — Don’t rush out and short the stock just yet. However, the Board and brand team at Amazon should be plunging into the five strategic questions above with gusto.

*This article published in October 2013by former Amazon employee, Eugene Wei, is rather insightful and a worthy read.

(Video) Jeff Bezos at MIT Amazon - Earth's Most Customer-Centric Company

***If you like my writing and are interested in fostering more meaningful conversations in our society, please check out myDialogosSubstack. This newsletter will feature articles on why and how we can all improve our conversations, whether it’s at home, with friends, in society at large or at work. Subscription is free, but if you see value in it, you are welcome to contribute both materially and through your comments. Sign up here:

(Video) Jeff Bezos on Why It's Always Day 1 at Amazon | Amazon News

What’s the Amazon brand? Where’s the Essence? And how can Jeff Bezos be replaced? (4)

Minter Dial

Minter Dial is an international professional speaker, author & consultant on Leadership, Branding and Digital Strategy. After a successful international career at L’Oréal, Minter Dial returned to his entrepreneurial roots and has spent the last ten years helping senior management teams and Boards to adapt to the new exigencies of the digitally enhanced marketplace. He has worked with world-class organisations to help activate their brand strategies, and figure out how best to integrate new technologies, digital tools, devices and platforms. Above all, Minter works to catalyse a change in mindset and dial up transformation. Minter received his BA in Trilingual Literature from Yale University (1987) and gained his MBA at INSEAD, Fontainebleau (1993). His books include Heartificial Empathy, Putting Heart into Business and Artificial Intelligence, bowed in December 2018 and won the Book Excellence Award 2019 as well as being shortlisted for the Business Book Awards 2019. It's available in Audiobook, Kindle and Paperback. He is also co-author of Futureproof (Pearson, Sep 2017) and sole author of The Last Ring Home (Myndset Press, Nov 2016), a book and documentary film, both of which have won awards and critical acclaim. Minter's latest book, You Lead, How being yourself makes you a better leader, published by Kogan Page, won the Business Book Award 2022 in the category of Leadership.It's easy to inquire about booking Minter Dial here.View all posts by Minter Dial

(Video) Amazon, Jeff Bezos and collecting data | DW Documentary


What is Amazon's brand essence? ›

Amazon's brand essence is not tied to specific products or categories. Your brand is defined by the way it consistently delights users with a high-quality, reliable online shopping experience.

What is the brand mantra of Amazon? ›

Amazon Slogan: Work Hard, Have Fun, Make History.

What did Jeff Bezos say about branding? ›

As Jeff Bezos famously said, "Your brand is what people say about you when you're not in the room." Personal branding bolsters any business that involves transactions or agreements between people — which is most businesses.

Why did Jeff Bezos choose the name Amazon? ›

“Get Big Fast” In 1994 Jeff Bezos, a former Wall Street hedge fund executive, incorporated Amazon.com, choosing the name primarily because it began with the first letter of the alphabet and because of its association with the vast South American river.

What does Amazon brand mean? ›

At the time, website listings were alphabetized, so he wanted a word that started with "A." When he landed on the word "Amazon," the name of the largest river on the planet, he decided that was the perfect name for what would become earth's largest bookstore.

What is the essence of any product? ›

Brand essence defines a company's raison d'etre – consider it to be the soul or DNA of a brand that can be felt everywhere where the brand is present. It brings together the concepts of the company's goals, the value proposition, and the brand values and principles.


1. Jeff Bezos In 1999 On Amazon's Plans Before The Dotcom Crash
2. Jeff Bezos Talks Amazon, Blue Origin, Family, And Wealth
(Personal Finance Insider)
3. Jeff Bezos, CEO and Founder, Amazon
(The Economic Club of Washington, D.C.)
4. Amazon Empire: The Rise and Reign of Jeff Bezos (full documentary) | FRONTLINE
(FRONTLINE PBS | Official)
5. 2005 Entrepreneurship Conference - Taking on the Challenge: Jeffrey Bezos, Amazon
(Stanford Graduate School of Business)
6. How Amazon CHANGED The World - And What It Means For You
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