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By Dick Maggiore and Mark Vandegrift

Amazon Fresh The Quest for Differentiated Brands

Has Amazon stepped in a Fresh one? The challenge of creating differentiated brands.

“One of several Amazon grocery brands needs to differentiate,” CEO admits. For America’s #1 Positioning Ad Agency, this recent Grocery Dive lede seemed like a gift to discuss how challenging it can be to create differentiated brands:

“Amazon Fresh store expansion paused, as it seeks better differentiation, economics.”

In case you haven’t seen one, Amazon Fresh is one of the e-commerce behemoth’s three grocer concepts. Or is it four … or more?

Differentiation is how consumers and businesses distinguish between brands so they can make a buy or no-buy decision. It’s why Innis Maggiore focuses on positioning. We help companies identify their brand’s position in the marketplace to be differentiated from their competition. Then we dramatize that brand position to create marketing that cuts through the clutter. Our proprietary process is designed to create differentiated brands.

Amazon CEO Andy Jassy admitted in a recent investor call that Amazon Fresh would go stale “until we have that equation with differentiation and economic value.” There’s more to this “pause” than merely waiting, as some stores are closing, while other finished stores never opened in the first place. As The Real Deal put it, this is “leaving a bad taste in the mouths of several communities stuck with ‘zombie’ stores, waiting indefinitely for them to open.”

Go “fresh” — Go “go” — or Go “grocery.”

With positioning and differentiation at our core, Innis Maggiore recommends against the over-proliferation of line extensions. Try to keep this straight (because admittedly, we’re having trouble doing so):

Amazon Fresh is a grocery store that features technologies like Amazon’s Just Walk Out computer vision system; Dash Carts that let you skip the checkout line through the use of touchscreens, barcode scanners, and sensor fusion to identify items in your cart; and Amazon One palm-scanning technology.

Amazon Go is a convenience store that is cashierless through the use of the same technologies, that together are said to be similar to a self-driving car.

Amazon Go Grocery (no, we’re not making this up) is a grocery store version of Amazon Go. How that differs from Amazon Fresh is not clear.

• There’s also Amazon Groceries, from which you can get delivery of shelf-stable food, and Whole Food Market on Amazon, the delivery version of Amazon’s Whole Foods store acquisition. Adding to the difficulties is that free 2-hour delivery for Prime members has jumped from requiring a minimum of $35 to $150.

Oh, and there’s competition from grocery retailers that don’t happen to have the Amazon name in front of theirs, such as Walmart, Kroger, Aldi, and Ahold Delhaize, all of which are also using similar “cutting-edge technology integrations.” The problem is Amazon’s sole form of differentiation happened to have been its use of cutting-edge technology (which we mentioned is being licensed to the competition!). Thus, the pause that un-Freshes.

Just walk out.

If you aren’t familiar with Amazon’s “Just Walk Out” technology, it was the original idea that drove Amazon to open their own grocery stores. The problem here is that the most differentiated of Amazon’s grocer concept is also being licensed to other retailers. In other words, Amazon is making available — to the competition — the strongest of its differentiated ideas.

There’s no doubt that Amazon stands as one of the most dramatic business success stories in the history of history. There’s also no doubt that Amazon sells a lot of grocery products. However, to grab a sizeable portion of the perishable segment of groceries, they need physical locations to succeed.

As of now, Amazon needs to differentiate to do so, and they are getting in their own way with so many overlapping concepts that share technologies. The cruel irony is the name Just Walk Out, which is what’s happening with closing stores, zombie stores that never came to life, and no new stores since nearly a year ago. Besides, walking out without paying seemed too much like shoplifting without shoplifting.

But wait, there IS hope!

Amazon Fresh needs differentiation. Your wish is our command: Innis Maggiore, the nation’s leading positioning ad agency, purveyor of differentiated brands, offers to conduct one of our proprietary Appreciative Discovery® sessions — our way of identifying a brand’s differentiating position in the marketplace — FREE OF CHARGE and do so shamelessly for the FREE PUBLICITY.

We’ll even come out to Seattle and return to the scene of one of our agency’s biggest differentiating and direct marketing triumphs, on behalf of another of the biggest business successes in the history of history: Microsoft.

Call Dick Maggiore 330.492.5500 or contact us online. He’ll keep the conversation Fresh.