The Ground Hog Day of Amazon Dash

Phil: “Something is… different.”

Rita: “Good or bad?”

Phil: “Anything different is good.”

Guessed the film? That’s right woodchuck-chuckers, it’s Ground Hog Day!

In the final scene, Bill Murray’s character finally wakes to a new morning. And the quote above says it all. Whilst it was initially fun to relive the same day over and over, he quickly feels trapped in an eternity of repetition.

It’s an obvious analogy of life. Humans are powered by a desire to try new things, to be inquisitive, to explore – to grow. Recent studies demonstrate that being surprised is neurologically good for us. That we find fulfilment in breaking from the routine. It applies to our lives, our relationships and to what we purchase.

Yet Amazon Dash seems to offer a very different point of view.

Released in the UK last week, Dash is an internet enabled tab that allows you to reorder items with a push of the button. The insight is that people don’t want to run out of staples like washing powder or toilet paper and that Dash provides a quicker and more convenient way to restock.

But it relies on a dangerous premise. That people are fiercely brand loyal, that a single button for a single brand is all they’ll ever want. That trying something new is simply unnecessary.

That premise seems to contradict everything we know as people – and everything we’ve uncovered as marketers. Our experiences tell us that choice, rather than convenience, is more important. The most obvious example is pricing. Studies consistently show that cost is a key influence on purchase decisions.

But beyond that, we also know that people are erratic shoppers.

Byron Sharpe’s studies demonstrate that even brand leaders don’t command unwavering loyalty, that increased sales are driven by infrequent buyers and that churn is a natural output of consumption. And that’s a good thing.

It creates an opportunity for brand challengers – for a new kid on the block to compete against a giant who commands 90% market share and an advertising budget of billions. It created brands like Dollar Shave Club, Netflix, easyJet and Innocent.

So whilst a Dash button is brilliantly convenient, it’s not exactly reflective of how we behave.

So, maybe Amazon built Dash for a different reason…

As one of the world’s biggest e-retailers, Amazon is also one of the world’s biggest data companies. They know about the shopping habits of their shoppers and that people like to switch. But they also know that, like products, people also like to switch retailers. They might switch because of pricing, because of great marketing, because a friend told them or simply because they’re bored.

As a brand leader, Amazon knows how important it is to innovate in order to offer shoppers something new. And that’s ultimately why they built Dash. It’s great innovation. The intention isn’t to make people buy the same product over and over. Shoppers will continue to look for new things like they always have. The intention is to make people use Amazon over and over – rather than another retailer. And the way to do that is to offer them something different. Anything different.

Because like Bill Murray said, “anything different is good”.

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Marcos Angelides

Marcos is a Strategy and Innovation Director at OMD.

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