Slap Dash: quick reactions to the Amazon Button

There are many better places to read about the new Amazon Dash button, launched yesterday. One such place is Matt Webb’s excellent (and as he calls them) ‘raw’ thoughts on what it means from an IoT perspective. And he should know.

Amazon Dash Button

One sentence in Matt’s piece made me sit up though… “You’re a loyal Tide customer, but you’ve run out“…

Loyalty does seem to be the presumption in the launch campaign for Dash; that people have a firm favourite (not even just a fixed repertoire) amongst the countless toilet rolls, washing up liquids, soaps and cereals they stock their homes with.

Loyalty. A big word, with an ironically fickle fan base.

What I perceive to be the general wind direction in the realms of best brand practice is that ‘loyalty’ might just be a largely fictitious beast, especially in the realms of FMCG.

A quick blast through the main points of Byron Sharp’s excellent How Brands Grow will give you an idea of why…

How Brands Grow : A summary of Byron Sharp’s book on what marketers don’t know from Amie Weller
And there’s a longer list of other brilliant viewpoints on it (read Martin Weigel on it, perhaps, over here).
Yet the launch of Amazon Dash seems predicated on the existence of brand loyalty.
So here’s an open question:
How many brands are you certain enough about to stick a button to your wall for? Think about the last shopping basket you filled, or Ocado order you received. What in there is a permanent fixture? What will you always buy to the exclusion of anything else?
What brand would you nail to a wall with the same conviction that you’d put up a picture in your house?
Dash makes a lot of sense from Amazon’s point of view, clearly. Whooo, go supply-chain monopoly!
And it may even make sense to FMCG marketers who believe they have a hard-core of “brand loyalists” out there, somewhere, who’ll choose their Dash button over a rivals.
(There’s actually a whole other conversation to have on whether you need an Ariel button by the washing machine, or a P&G button, but that’s for another day).
But with what the evidence and understanding of how it seems now that brands have worked, that doesn’t seem like the Amazon Dash idea of ‘loyalty’ is all they make it out to be.
It does give rise to an interesting set of questions though.
If we suppose for a minute that brand loyalty isn’t a thing, could we also argue that it’s because the infrastructure hasn’t existed to make it a thing.
After all, building loyalty in supermarket aisles by running TV ads and putting up posters is doomed to failure becuase of all the stoopid consumers who always forget what craft and joy you put into your ad, right?
Loyalty would probably be a brilliant strategy if everyone used shopping algorithms.
However, is it possible that things like Amazon Dash will create a world where brand loyalty actually means something, because the infrastructure connecting people to needs is so different?
Or, alternatively, are we going to see a short-term future in which people stick three Dash buttons on the washing machine, and use the website to check prices on the cheapest before pressing?
Oh, and those brand stickers – they’re crying out to be screens in two years time. Which could mean adverts, and competition for space, and doom for FMCG brands.
Reckon, reckon, reckon… and relax.


9 responses to “Slap Dash: quick reactions to the Amazon Button”

  1. I’d have a Queen Anne button, except I like the ritual of going and picking it up and carrying it home. Also this is from the same people who make Amazon Echo, so not convinced Amazon is good to win at IoT

    1. john v willshire avatar
      john v willshire

      Definitely something interesting in creating environments and shopping styles more rooted in ritual than hassle.

  2. I think you’re dead right about ‘loyalty’. It’s always struck me as being about as real a concept as the economist’s idea of ‘rational self interest’ (bonkers over-simplification of the chaos of the real world, but so handy for getting the maths to work that everyone pretended it was true).

    1. john v willshire avatar
      john v willshire

      I don’t think the endgame for Amazon is ‘loyalty’ at all. Simply getting someone else to fund the research programme. If it works, they’ll no doubt screw over the FMCG companies just like they did the record labels & publishers. If it does’t work, they’ve not lost as much experiment money.

  3. Amazon know our ‘loyalty’ is to the unthinking convenience of it all, more than the stuff itself. They should really push the experiment and include some Dash buttons for brands no-one has heard of — just how deep does our indifference really run?

  4. I won’t attempt to guess how successful Dash will be, although it feels very much like a thing *before* the successful thing.

    Agree on ‘loyalty’. I spoke to a brand manager of a high street coffee chain recently who admitted that many of their customers were only ‘loyal’ because the coffee shop was slap bang on their route to work. An example of the infrastructure you mentioned?

    Habit, convenience and familiarity/trust are more useful words here.

    However, things like laundry detergent are exactly the right kinds of products to try this with. How often do you experiment with new detergents? We buy the same one every time as I’m sure millions of people do. In fact, the road has already been paved for this idea with supermarkets’ ‘my usuals’ lists on their online order screens (which we use fairly religiously in our household too).

    Still all feels a bit like the mobile payment world though (where it’s still easier to use a contactless card than unlock your phone and fire up an app). How many Tide-buying consumers want to order programmable buttons when it’s so easy to buy Tide already?

    All good challenges. I’m quite interested to see where this goes. Perhaps we’ll have to wait till the sensors are so cheap and small and easily programmable that they’re embedded in each physical product itself.