Taylor Swift may be America’s favorite artist, and a pop phenomenon who has built a significant personal brand, but in a head-to-head brand battle with Amazon, the online retailer wins. That’s according to the latest research from WPP BrandAsset Valuator (BAV)*, the “largest, most comprehensive brand analytics platform in the world”. The result is indicative of America’s love affair with Amazon. So the question is: can consumer fandom for the brand influence the current FTC lawsuit, which claims Amazon wields monopolistic power?
Let’s first consider the BAV data:
- Brand Equity - Amongst “all adults”, Amazon is firmly in the “Leadership Quadrant” of BAV, stronger than 99.95% of all other brands in the survey, and with a higher brand stature than 99.9% of the rest. (By comparison, Taylor’s brand is considered a leader, but for a broad audience, more towards the middle of the pack.)
- Equity Pillars - BAV ranks brands according to four “pillars”; Differentiation, Relevance, Esteem and Knowledge. Amazon is in the highest percentile for all pillars, and is 98.98% more highly differentiated than all other brands. (Ms. Swift’s brand is better differentiated than 86.88% of the market, but is low on relevance - she has her fanatical Swifties but doesn’t necessarily appeal to everybody.)
- Brand Personality - Amazon is considered “Inventive”, “Purposeful”, “Hip”, “Established”, “Dependable”, “Bold”, “Accessible” and “Spirited”, with little downside. When pressed, consumers can think of Amazon as “Distant”. (Taylor Swift’s brand is also “Distant” - more so than most other brands - but is “hipper” than 98.62% of brands.)
- Brand Worth - Amazon is seen to both “provide good value” and also be a brand “worth paying more for”. (To the broad market, Taylor’s brand is not.)
- Brand Love - Amazon is the best-loved brand of all US retailers (Walmart is #2). When you break down the characteristics of that love, Amazon ranks highest on being “Dependable” (reliable, trustworthy, good value, original) and “Intellectual” (resourceful, stimulating, innovative, progressive - even visionary), but is also strong on “Playfulness” (charming, fun, energetic). (Ms. Swift’s brand also rates highly on being “Playful”.)
- Brand Relationship - 60% of all adults use Amazon regularly, with a further 26% citing occasional usage. 80.5% of respondents either prefer Amazon solely, or say it’s one of several they prefer. (Those stats don’t apply to Taylor’s brand.)
Amazon’s brand power grew strongly through the pandemic. Back in 2019, Amazon didn’t make the cut of BAV’s Most Loved retailers. By 2020 though, the brand had vaulted over the likes of Walmart, Home Depot and Target to claim the #1 position.
So will Amazon’s popularity make FTC chairperson Lina Khan’s case more difficult? In her Yale Law Review Paper on “Amazon’s Antitrust Paradox” back in 2017, Khan admits that “customers...universally seem to love the company.” But that was also true of Standard Oil in the first big U.S. antitrust suit back in the early 1900’s. As a history of Standard Oil stated: “Competitors disliked the company’s business practices, but consumers liked the lower prices.” That didn’t stop the U.S. Justice Department ordering the break up of Standard Oil in 1911.
The outcome of the Amazon case won’t come down to a popularity contest. But in the words of Taylor Swift, the strength of the brand just might help Amazon “Shake It Off”.
- Jon Bird is Executive Director at VMLY&R Commerce
Originally published in Forbes