Brand: Amazon Fishbowl (Amazon.com)
Execution: Web Video
Link: Click Here
Target: Amazon Users
Amazon introduces a weekly talk show airing only on the Amazon homepage featuring comedian Bill Maher and interviews with authors, musicians and filmmakers. The first episode which began airing this week features bestselling author Dean Koontz, Darnelia Russell, Ward Serrill and a performance from the Dixie Chicks.
Amazon joins the web video fray in a novel an unexpected way that turns the concepts of ‘retailer’ and ‘content provider’ upside down. From a branding perspective, Amazon is trying to solve a classic retailer dilemma – how to become a more regular destination for already-loyal users. Since Amazon cannot sell milk, it was forced to be more creative. The Amazon Fishbowl is a clever and creative solution to this dilemma. The idea itself is good but not unforseeable, but the execution is excellent. If Amazon had picked a lesser talent, or less-known talent to host the Fishbowl, the result would almost certainly be failure. But Bill Maher is an inspired choice (although not perfect as he seems to be something of a technophobe himself and constantly refers to the show as being ‘on the computer’ which sounds to this advertising blog about as anachronistic as saying ‘going steady’ would be) and gives Amazon Fishbowl instant gravitas that it could not have commanded with an unknown or b-lister.
Amazon also shows its savvy with good integration between the interviewees and their products. When Dean Koontz is being interviewed, you can buy his book by clicking on a link just below the video window. This is a great example of closed-loop marketing.
Another smart touch by Amazon was to create an advertising model for Fishbowl. Instead of supporting the show entirely on their own, Amazon sold commercial advertising in Fishbowl and Cingular is the first advertiser (with a spot we reviewed this week). This is obviously a smart cost-saving move for Amazon, but it shows a great deal of institutional wisdom as well. If Amazon had left the Fishbowl to survive on its own without advertisers, the value of the programming would come down to very narrow metrics, like increased user return rates and purchase rates of the featured products. There would also be the danger of turning Amazon Fishbowl into a high school public access channel effort, where the quality of the programming would be in continual peril of degrading depending on the political whims within the organization.
By creating a revenue base for the show, Amazon makes it its own business, and gives it a chance to command the attention and respect it deserves within the organization. This keeps the stage clear for future innovation and continued investment in the media property.
Amazon cannot assume that this program will find a nitch solely on the strength of Bill Maher’s personality. There is a fine line separating a show with interesting author, director and artist interviews and an Amazon version of the Home Shopping Network where the viewer is being un-subtly prodded to buy whatever Amazon is trying to get rid of that week. Like any other brand, Amazon fishbowl must decide what it stands for, what its attitude is and how it will be perceived by viewers and carefully stick with that positioning over time. The novelty of Fishbowl along with its placement on the Amazon home page will give it a solid viewership for the time being. To survive in the long run, however, Fishbowl will have to find and fill a need for its viewers.
Branding Bottom Line:
Somehow Amazon uses TV on the Internet to sell books. We still wish we had bought stock.