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Amazon’s Brag And Awe Press Release Strategy

Every now and then I amuse myself by reading an press release. Amazon’s releases are a veritable art form in that they say as much as possible while divulging as few specific details as possible. Amazon discloses just enough to brag but far too little to learn anything meaningful.

Press releases are an important part of Amazon’s culture. Part of its quirky shtick is for executives proposing a new product or service first to write a press release envisioning the future announcement of what they’re pitching. It’s a way to make the case that pursuing the investment in question is a good idea. I wonder, though, if Amazon’s confidential, internal press releases are as void of true information as the company’s actual, public releases.

The work of art that caught my attention Wednesday was Amazon’s announcement of “the Biggest Global Shopping Event in Amazon History” on its recently concluded 30-hour “Prime Day.” This is a promotion during which customers who buy an annual Prime membership that comes with free delivery, music, videos and other goodies, get access to ultra-steep discounts across Amazon’s platforms.

How big was this historic day? The company had “hundreds of thousands of deals”—a data point big enough to drive an Amazon delivery truck through. The “event grew by more than 60%” from last year. Is that revenues? Profits? Units? Amazon doesn’t say. And what was the figure last year that 60% growth figure compares too? Nope, not saying. Amazon declared that “tens of millions of Prime members” made a purchase on Prime Day, a 50%-plus increase from the year before. These are both vague figures designed to awe without disclosing any real data.

Continuing a favorite practice, Amazon (AMZN) says its Echo Dot was its “best-selling device” of the shopping day. How many units does it take to be a best-seller? Amazon doesn’t say. It throws some bones to non-Amazon products too. A programmable pressure cooker sold well in the U.S. (sales figures omitted), a Moto smartphone crushed it in Spain (but you’ll have to take Amazon’s word for it because there’s no data attached to it), and its customers in India really liked a Seagate (STX) disc drive, though we don’t know how many of them liked it.

By the way, Amazon’s grand pooh-bah of retail, Jeff Wilke, appears at Brainstorm Tech next week in Aspen. I plan to push him for specifics. I won’t hold my breath.

Adam Lashinsky