From Zero to Hero: The celebritization of Amazon's marketplace
Celebrity culture has exploded in the last decade or so and Amazon has upped their celebrity presence this year. When the marketplace promoted their Black-Friday-like event, Prime Day they used all sorts of celebrity influence. Amazon started off their summer event with a big concert featuring the likes of Taylor Swift, Dua Lipa and others. They also placed large discounts on celebrity brand products such as Mark Wahlberg’s ‘Performance Inspired’ training supplements and Hilary Duff’s ‘Cubcoats’. Perhaps the most noticeable case of celebrity influence on Amazon during this extravaganza though was the pre-order for Lady Gaga’s Haus Laboratories cosmetics which was made available during Prime Day and is an Amazon exclusive product. Celebrities are slowly becoming a major part of Amazon’s brand. The founder of Amazon, Jeff Bezos has become something of a celebrity himself with over 985K followers on Twitter and he can even be found on Famous Birthdays.com!
Prime Day isn’t the only time Amazon has used a star’s celebrity status in order to sell products on their marketplace though. Amazon’s break into celebrity promotions began in 2016 with the creation of the new Echo speaker where they broadcast an advert featuring Alec Baldwin, Dan Marino, Missy Elliot and Jason Schwartzman during the Super-Bowl. After the huge success of the ad, Amazon has continued to invest in celebrity endorsement. Last year the international marketplace furthered its association with celebrity by adding a new section on their site called The Celebrity Store. The Celebrity Store hub displays Amazon products that have been endorsed by specific actors, athletes and influencers such as Zac Efron, Serena Williams and Pokemane. Each star has been given their own custom Amazon page to advertise endorsed brands found on the site for example, Serena Williams’ page shows products from MISSION Instant Cooling Gear. Celebrity store pages are added to a brand’s pre-existing store page meaning Amazon can entice brands to sell on the site and increase their brand awareness on the marketplace ultimately increasing their sales.
Amazon also has an Influencer Program which, similar to Amazon Associates, gives social media influencers their own Amazon Storefront. Influencers can showcase Amazon products they recommend to their followers and, by doing so, earn a small percentage of the commission when they bought through their Storefront. The Influencer program gives a platform for people with some influential status to take an active role in endorsing products and portray an authentic self-image. Equally, by allowing social media influencers to do so, Amazon not only have their products promoted to a larger demographic but can also produce an air of authenticity out of association.
Earlier this year, Amazon also started to use the fame of influencers to sell limited edition fashion collections through The Drop. This section of Amazon’s site sells fashion collections designed by favourite influencers from around the world with each design lasting for only 30 hours. Amazon uses the reputation of specific influencers to dabble into the ‘drop culture’ trend and sell one of its own brand labels. The Drop also sells a specific range of clothing that are always available but are not designed by influencers. Due to the brand’s unique selling point as part of ‘drop culture’ these evergreen items are still associated with fashion influencers though.
Amazon has always struggled with growing into a multinational ecommerce marketplace without losing the emotional relationship with consumers that smaller businesses may hold. Although Amazon appeals to people due to its high standard for consumer needs such as choice and constant innovation, its personable image is lacking. Younger generations are actively avoiding the site as they do not trust the corporate industry. Celebrity and social media may be Amazon’s approach to appeal to this generation. Instagram influencers especially hold an established credibility over a large audience that Amazon has been unable to replicate (just look at Amazon Spark and decide for yourself).
By using social media influencers Amazon can ultimately persuade a new demographic to use their marketplace since they are trusted and believed to be authentic. Does this mean that Amazon is using celebrity culture merely to appeal to generation Z and gain emotional capital? Probably not. Amazon may also be using celebrities and influencers to compete with Instagram itself.
Although one’s a social media powerhouse and the other an ecommerce giant, Instagram has invested a lot into creating m-commerce features on its platform which makes shopping on the app easier. This makes Instagram an actual competitor to Amazon. To defend against losing a share of ecommerce profits, Amazon has tried to copy one of Instagram’s prominent ecommerce features for their own platform; influencers. Using celebrities and social media influencers on Amazon’s marketplace essentially takes away one of Instagram’s unique selling points and allows Amazon to promote their products, entice new businesses to sell on their marketplace and reach new customer demographics.
It appears that Amazon has come a long way from resisting celebrity culture. Steve Susi, a former Amazon advertising executive claimed that “…Bezos resisted celebrity endorsements because it just seemed so inauthentic and un-Amazonian”.¹ It seems like Bezos himself has come to realise that any company looking to survive today in a world obsessed with celebrity and fame must use these to their advantage. The move from avoiding stardom to implementing it into a commercial strategy just shows how adaptable Amazon can be to remain one of the Big Four along with the likes of Apple, Google and Facebook.