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The Kindle Fire: Amazon's fundamental brand mistake

It seems everywhere I look there is praise for this new product and how it will challenge Apple's iPad. But something in me is going, "No, No, No." And now I think I know what it is.

The Kindle Fire is a potentially useful product with poor positioning.

Poor positioning means bad brand. Bad brand means bad business.

The first clue is in the name: "Kindle Fire." It should be one name instead of two - "Fire" only. 

That "Fire" should be positioned as doing one thing, occupying ONE place in the mind, keeping one brand promise. 

But the Kindle Fire is supposed to do everything: "web, movies, apps, games, reading and more."

If Amazon were Apple this would be fine, maybe, because Apple's brand promise is to connect you with your media. But Amazon and Apple are not brand competitors. Amazon is misunderstanding its competitive set, because it has so successfully inserted itself into the world of "buy everything at this one site."

No, at its core Amazon's promise is about books. Amazon started out as a way to get any book you wanted to read, at the lowest price possible, knowing that you could trust Amazon to be your intermediary on the scary Web.

So the Kindle was an extension of the original brand promise. It made books even more accessible, as you could get them quickly and take them everywhere. It enhanced the book experience and made it relevant for the age of Twitter, when the relevance of books themselves was being threatened.

In a similar way, Frappuccino was an extension of the Starbucks brand promise. It elevated the experience of drinking a Starbucks coffee because now you could get a great taste either hot or iced.

Both the Kindle and the Frappuccino are examples of a brand increasing its functional benefit. Their success lies in doing one very narrow thing very well. 

In complete contrast, Apple offers a simple brand promise with broad applicability - design to make complicated technology accessible, especially in the area of rich media.

Amazon successfully expanded its brand promise by taking the concept of "online trust" and using it to sell everything.

But Amazon has gotten mixed up. Because it's also expanded the brand promise into cloud computing.

So now Amazon has books + "online trust" + cloud computing.

Instead of keeping those promises separate through strategic brand architecture, it has lost focus and mishmashed them. The Kindle Fire is a prime example.

Young & Rubicam pioneered the science of what makes a brand work in its Brand Asset Valuator. A great brand has relevance, differentiation, stature and awareness. 

The Kindle Fire has awareness and stature (trust) no doubt. But it does not have relevance and differentiation at all.

Instead of copying what Apple already does successfully, the Kindle Fire should focus on what it does differently and why that is important.

Amazon should position the Kindle Fire as providing the ultimate book experience. 

Take books, put them on the Kindle Fire, and add rich media - interviews with the authors, eye-popping charts and graphics, and any other related content that would make the experience of reading a book great. Put it all on 3G, free, for good.

I don't need another tablet. I don't need an easy way to buy things on Amazon. I do need a way to get back to reading books, to savoring the moment and the experience.

Teenage kids who used to hate reading will enjoy a book if it's on the Kindle. 

Forget about connecting us to "everything," and focus on elevating the experience of reading a published work.

Good luck Amazon - go for it!

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