Power Players 2009

Jeff Bezos Is Ad Age's No. 27 Power Player

Customer Service Is What Makes the Brand for Amazon

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Last Year
THE POWER: Amazon's marketing power is simple: excellent and consistent customer service. While other companies raised product and shipping prices to make up for waning consumer spending, Amazon in the fourth quarter of 2008 extended door-buster deals through the end of the year, added Amazon mobile deals of the day, offered free movies on its subsidiary, Internet Movie Database (imdb.com), and expanded free-shipping programs.

Much like Steve Jobs at Apple, Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos focuses on the customer experience over tech prowess and whiz-bang features. He has often iterated his goal to run "the most customer-centric company in the world." Its recent acquisition of Zappos, the footwear and fashion retailer, is a great customer-service match up and will likely only add to Amazon's e-tail domination.

THE NUMBERS: Tell it all. In the fourth quarter of 2008, Amazon reported its best quarter ever, with sales up 18% to $6.7 billion up from $5.67 billion for 2007. Recent numbers are just as positive with sales of $4.65 billion in the second quarter, an increase of 14% vs. the same period in 2008. Measured media spending is minute: $20 million in 2008. First-half 2009 spending was up slightly to $7 million.

THE KEY LIEUTENANTS: Mr. Bezos' head techie, Chief Technology Officer Werner Vogels is the only executive other than Mr. Bezos who speaks publicly on Amazon's behalf. True to Amazon's eschewing of traditional marketing, there is no CMO or senior VP-marketing at Amazon.

THE CHALLENGE: By virtue of its reader reviews and customer rankings, Amazon is a social-media company, and it does have a variety of internal bloggers and Twitterers. But the company drew widespread fire in April when gay- and lesbian-themed books disappeared from listings. The incident happened over a weekend and while thousands of tweets, blog and Facebook posts by consumers flew across the web, Amazon didn't respond until Monday afternoon. While it's hard to believe the internet giant's monitoring system sleeps on weekends, any inattention or slow response can ding even Amazon's stellar rep.

THE AGENCIES: Doner, Southfield, Mich., was tapped last year to come up with new ways to market the e-tailer's brand. However, there's been no visible outcome yet.

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