Bozo of brand extension Bezos leaves me SMH … again

The headline read: Amazon may unveil its own messaging app. Anytime would give Facebook, Hangouts and iMessage a run for their money.

Then the very next day brought this: Blue Apron hits all-time low as Amazon suggests it will get into the meal-kit business.

To the first headline, I say, “No, no it absolutely won’t.” To the second, I say, “Blue Apron may have problems, but long-term, Amazon isn’t one of them.”

Does this sound like crazy talk? After all, isn’t Amazon the 8-million-pound gorilla of … well, everything? Hardly. If you think I’m nuts, let me remind you that I predicted Amazon would fail with its telephone business, and it did. I also predicted that Amazon would fail with its disposable diaper business, and it did. The list goes on.

I’m no Nostradamus. I just happen to know a little bit about a concept called brand extension, a topic I’ve written about many times, usually using Amazon as the what-not-to-do example.

Brand extension is simply the idea of leveraging a brand that’s strong in one type of product or service to launch another type of product or service. When the old and the new are reasonably close in nature, this can work quite well. For example, just over 35 years ago, Coca-Cola leveraged the Coke brand to launch Diet Coke, and Diet Coke is still going strong. It only made sense that the maker of a regular soda would offer a diet version, too.

On the other hand, when a company attempts to extend its brand to some unrelated, ridiculously different type of product or service, the effort typically ends in disaster. For example, if you ever establish a strong brand selling books online, you probably shouldn’t bother trying to launch your own line of private-label disposable diapers. It just won’t make sense to the buying public, as already proven by Amazon.

That brings us back around to messaging apps and meal kits. Will Amazon make any dent in either of these markets? Sure, but a small one. There are always some diehard fanatics who will follow a brand any stupid place it decides to go. I’m sure there are people out there who, given the opportunity, would eagerly switch to Amazon-labeled toenail clippers. But those diehards can’t support a business.

A few years back, when dial-up was still a thing, I talked to a credit union that tried to white label Internet service from a local ISP. Of course, the effort failed. Who’s going to buy Internet service from their financial institution? It just doesn’t make sense. Just like it doesn’t make sense to buy meal kits from … honestly, I don’t even know how to describe Amazon these days. And that’s bad news for the Amazon brand. It’s reached a point where the Amazon brand doesn’t really stand for anything in particular.

It seems like I always end my discussions of brand extension with that famous quote from popcorn guru Orville Redenbacher: “Do one thing, and do it better than anyone.” That’s how you keep a brand pure and strong.

John San Filippo

John San Filippo

John is the co-founder of OmniChannel Communications, Inc., a company that specializes in B2B marketing to community financial institutions. He started out in the savings and loan industry, but wisely ... Web: Details