Hey, what’s up, guys? This is Brand Breakdown, and I’m your host, Matt Young. Brand Breakdown is a show where we take a company, breakdown its brand perception, and paint a picture of how people came to perceive it that way. If you want us to review your brand, drop a comment or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Today’s company is Amazon – the largest online retailer in the United States and one of the largest companies in the entire world. In 2019, they made over 280 BILLION dollars in sales. You might only know them for their online shopping and 2-day free shipping, but most of their profits actually come from their software services known as AWS, Amazon Web Services. They dominate a third of the entire cloud computing market according to Statista.com1 where they made a profit of over 7 billion dollars in 2019 alone.
Still, they’re the Walmart of online shopping, the first place most people think to look when they want something shipped to their house. They make so many online sales that they deliver over 1 million packages every single day.
Amazon Business Activities
As well as hosting millions of sellers, Amazon also sells its own products like the Kindle, Fire Stick, and of course their Alexa products like the Amazon Echo.
Amazon’s biggest acquisition was Whole Foods back in 2017 for 13.7 billion dollars.2 Previously nicknamed “Whole Paycheck,” Whole Foods became Amazon’s gateway into the food industry. Since then, they have begun testing their “grocery store of tomorrow,” Amazon Go Grocery, a cashier-less grocery store.3 This is just my own speculation, but I think Amazon will end up running grocery stores the same way they run their warehouses: with robots running most of the show, stocking items and picking them off shelves, putting them onto an assembly line to be packaged and delivered right to your door. Tell me what you think will happen.
Of course, Amazon didn’t break into the top of the most valuable companies list by using only the most clean-cut business practices. They are notorious for having an extremely demanding work culture. There have been reports of warehouse employees having to pee in plastic bottles because they weren’t allowed to go to the bathroom while on shift.4
Amazon is also notoriously anti-union.5 Amazon says, “We are not anti-union, but we are not neutral either.”6 This quote is from a training video for Whole Foods managers after their acquisition in 2017. Less than 10 seconds later, they also say, “We do not believe unions are in the best interest of our customers, our shareholders, or, most importantly, our associates.”
They even go so far as to make it company policy to report any suspicion of unionization. Here’s another quote from their training video: “The most obvious signs (of union organization) would include the use of words associated with unions or union-led movements like a living wage.”
Amazon also fired an employee of five years after leading a walk-out in New York in protest of alleged underreporting of COVID-19 infections to continue keeping people in the workplace even while infected.7 That was in March of this year, 2020.
Very controversial is Amazon’s facial recognition technology, which they aggressively try to sell various governments according to Forbes,8 and they previously advertised the product specifically for police bodycams.9 Not quite there yet, but it’s reminiscent of the 2002 movie “Minority Report” where police arrest people based on data they collect indicating the likelihood of committing a crime.
If you’ve heard about Amazon not paying taxes, the Tennessean reports that Amazon has collected over 1.5 billion dollars in government subsidies between 2000-2017, and they paid $0 in federal taxes both 2017 and 2018 after making a combined total of 16.6 billion dollars in profit.10
Out of all the companies I’ve researched so far, Amazon makes me the most uncomfortable to continue doing business with. It honestly appalls me to know how they violate basic human liberties like going to a bathroom or how they actively try to sell our information to various governments. The weirdest part to me is that I know I will continue to utilize their services, and there’s not a right way to approach handling their business practices when so much of what they provide is so essential to so many people. It’s one of those weird, “what is the worse of two evils” sort of dilemmas.
So you tell me, did you learn something new about Amazon that will affect how you view them or how you’ll interact with them in the future?
If you like our content about branding, want us to review your brand, or want to work with us, please let us know in the comments or by emailing me at email@example.com. This has been Brand Breakdown with your host, Matt Young. Peace.