With a new ”innovation” Amazon continues to prove that it’s a crafty and forward-thinking marketer. The “Dash Button” is a curious new wi-fi product for the home where a push of a button auto-orders and ships a pre-programmed product online from Amazon (great overview on Dash here). But I believe the Dash Button was never meant to become a serious new channel for Amazon, but is instead a PR-campaign “icon” designed to normalize consumer behavior in favor of Amazon’s future: making the home the “point-of-purchase.”
It wouldn’t be the first time Amazon has used PR to normalize heretofore non-normal behavior. In 2013, I wrote about the brand’s sudden PR push around their “Drone Deliveries” and argued that the push was not intended to be a serious introduction of the new service, but a way to start normalizing drones in American society. In just a little over a year, we are seeing drones everywhere, even at times on the White House lawn. When Amazon does launch the drone delivery service, we’ll be more than ready.
I suspect the Dash Button has a similar secret mission. First, here’s the ad that is supporting its launch:American society has been trained to consume stuff, create a shopping list of things you need, go to the store, load up on stuff, and then repeat. As such, shopping, particularly for groceries, tends to be a weekly event, and also tends to happen at a store outside the home.
In order for Amazon to convince Americans that online shopping is preferable, even for groceries, Amazon must kill the shopping list. A shopping list is a way to remember what you need. You need to remember because shopping only happens once a week and you need to bring that list to the physical store.
To kill the shopping list Amazon must get consumers to stop thinking about shopping as one big event that happens at a store and more as an act that is distributed throughout any given day inside the home. If you need detergent, order it now, don’t put it on some shopping list to buy later.
That’s a pretty seismic shift in consumers’ relationships with their stuff, their food, and their methods for acquiring both. But, like the “scary drones,” Amazon knows this fact and is busy preparing us.
Amazon Dash Button normalizes online shopping
The Dash Button is a very cool, simple, “Apple-y” device. It does one thing and apparently does it well. But it also has many curious and obvious flaws, many of which have been discussed in detail in the media. What if a child decides to press the button? Is it practical to have thirty of these buttons in a pantry holding as many family staples? Isn’t it just as easy to order these products from your smartphone? There are probably others.
But Amazon doesn’t care about any of that. The Dash Button is an advertising campaign disguised as an innovative new service.
The media coverage the Dash Button has earned in a few short months is enormous. Every business publication, consumer publication, TV station, newspaper, and shopping blog has talked about it. Many have praised it and as many have panned it. Some see it as the future and others as an unnecessary complication to our lives. But between the lines of this blizzard of articles is a very clear (and assumptively brilliant) message: you can buy stuff when you need it from Amazon and it will show up at your door.
Let the pundits and the experts debate the practicality of the Dash Button. Let the bloggers complain (or not). Let consumers post their thoughts on Twitter using #DashButton to their heart’s content.
Because for every debate heard, blog post read, and Twitter post seen, American consumers are further exposed to this new reality of online buying. It’s not hard for consumers to believe that pressing this little button – this little button linked to a product in the home! – will mean Amazon will immediately swing into action. Over time the shopping list will start to look archaic and the act of ordering products online when you need them will start to look normal.
The Dash Button will likely fail, but only as a channel. The button will succeed wildly as an advertising campaign designed to chip away at the inertia that is our weekly shopping event.
Eventually, the shopping list will die, the shipping list will be born, and Amazon will be ready and waiting to take your order from your smartphone (not from the button). All right from the new point-of-purchase, your home.