Marketing Pilgrim's Reputation Channel

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Can An Awesome Product Overcome Reputation Issues?




Amazon-LogoHere at Marketing Pilgrim, we are especially sensitive to stories about corporate reputations. Our founder Andy Beal and his Trackur product specialize in helping companies keep track (get it?) of what is being said in the online space.

In most cases, when there is some concern or issue around a product or service, many are quick to jump on the reputation crushing bandwagon to express their concerns, be they real or imagined. People like to be part of a group especially when they can get some sense of making a difference, no matter how artificial it is. But how far will they go to bring a brand down if it is something they really like?

We have a test case of sorts brewing around Amazon. In the UK there are reports surfacing of working conditions that could be perceived as being a bit ‘overdone’. Consumeraffairs.com reports

With holiday gift-buying season upon us, retailers are hiring extra temporary workers to help handle the rush, and a BBC reporter who went undercover to work in an Amazon warehouse in Swansea, England, discovered working conditions that would cause “mental and physical illness,” including layouts requiring workers to walk up to 11 miles per shift, to fill orders at a rate averaging one every 11 seconds.

Considering this is a relatively low-paying hourly job it seems a bit rough and the BBC seems hell bent on making an issue of it. The obvious reason is to ‘uncover’ the difficult conditions that exist for workers just so the world can get anything and everything through Amazon in a timely fashion. How unfair!

The question them becomes, will people even care? Amazon is so important to the buying habits of so many that it may create a sort of Teflon veneer on the company and its reputation. Ask yourself the question, would you stop using Amazon on principle because they push workers pretty hard? I seriously doubt it, at least to the level that there would be a real impact on Amazon’s business.

Why? Well, let’s face it. Online activism is the absolute weakest form of ‘striking back’ there is. Internet muscles can be flexed in posts and tweets while the next browser window would be the next purchase of a book or a blender through amazon.ocm and no one would be the wiser.

I feel for the workers at Amazon but at the same time I think that they can make the choice to not work there. In fact, I didn’t even consider that Amazon was in the wrong here because these people are working there of their own doing. It’s not child labor, it’s just hard work. Granted it’s work I wouldn’t want to do but then again I really do need that car charger for my smartphone tomorrow by 10:30 am so I am sure glad someone does.

What about you? What would Amazon need to do in order to make you protest the company and stop ordering from them? Is this kind of ‘story’ enough to tarnish the reputation of the top ecommerce player on the planet? Would you consider inconveniencing yourself for the rights of someone walking a lot in a warehouse?

  • Jordan

    Sort of surprised this is even a real newspiece, the conditions described here are pretty much the same across any shipping industry, I’ve personally worked for Fedex at the same conditions level described in this article. It’s not a job for those who aren’t physically active, most of the time newspaper folks aren’t active at this level. The work isn’t easy but its a fair bit less demanding then being a farmer

    • FrankReed

      Well, Jordan, what passes for news these days is oftentimes suspect. When newspapers are in trouble they will expand their ‘reach’ especially if the target is a big name like Amazon. is that a good thing? I think not but it’s the reality of a 24 hour news cycle and the push to create new content all day every day. That said, it will likely only get worse! Woo-hoo!

  • Debra Hamel

    Given the health benefits of walking — treadmill desks, for example, are all the rage — one could easily spin these job conditions as Amazon promoting the physical health of its workers. Why not complain about the unhealthy sedentary positions imposed by innumerable companies on their secretarial assistants?