Here at L2, we’re not afraid to talk about technologies that we think have been overhyped and are more fluff than substance, whether it’s VR, the Internet of Things or 3D printing. The technology that is probably in our view the most revolutionary and is going to shake brands to their core? Voice. Voice technology is getting tremendous
traction. Alexa is in 4% of US households, Siri handles over 2 billion commands a week and 20% of Google searches on Android handsets are input by voice. Who loses? Brands. Voice-based ordering eliminates the need for packaging, design and end caps – all the things brands have poured billions and decades into perfecting. The decline of brand began with the advent of Google and every day fewer people put a prefix of a brand name in a Google search. And the same is going to happen with voice commands. Our research reveals that over the past year, non-branded product searches have increased in every CPG category. Prediction: the decline is going to accelerate. The death of brand is here and it has a voice, specifically Alexa. Buy batteries. Amazon’s choice for batteries is Amazon Basics AA batteries 48-pack. It’s 13 dollars and 60 cents total including tax. Would you like to buy it? No. I also found a 20-pack of Amazon Basics AAA performance alkaline batteries. It’s seven dollars and 61 cents total, including tax. Would you like to buy it? No. That’s all I can find for batteries right now. All right. Check your Alexa app for more options. So there’s nothing that unusual about a retailer taking advantage of their custody of the consumer to trade them off to a private label brand – which is what Amazon is doing here because when you go on the site in fact you do find that Alexa has more options. There are several branded batteries. It’s just Alexa, without having to bother with the consumer seeing a brand or packaging, has decided to omit or let other brands
disappear from your selection. Also, the pricing is different on Alexa to
voice commands than it is on the main platform. It seems as if they’re taking advantage of this lack of transparency to charge more. We’ll see. I feel insignificant sitting in front of this. So just as the media was fascinated with the fight between Muhammad Ali and Antonio Inoki, the famous wrestler 40-plus years ago, the media is missing the point today and focused on the fight between Walmart and Amazon, who compete against each other, but not really directly as Walmart owns the rural customer and
Amazon is clearly going after the urban wealthy. The real victims here? The people hurt by Amazon? Likely brands – specifically CPG brands. Amazon’s algorithm finds the lowest unit price for a given product and then applies it. If Costco sells a 10-pack of toilet paper for $10, Amazon notes the price per roll is $1, forcing Walmart, which aims to have the
lowest price on 80% of its products, to do the same which in turn, Amazon and Walmart force their manufacturers to lower their price, telling them to stop marketing and start cutting prices which is the equivalent of a payday loan in the world of marketing: it works in the short run, but over the long term you end up broke. If you don’t play ball, Walmart will limit your distribution and create its own rival products and the Amazon algorithm will literally kick you off the platform in a nanosecond. A continued loser: TV networks. What best captures the vibe at the recent upfronts? A stunned and silent audience based on, no joke, the announcement that ABC was bringing back Roseanne. Desperation has a name. It’s TV. Fox registered a 2% gain in viewers this season – if you include sports. If you don’t, viewership fell 19%. ABC viewership declined 8%. The network boasts five of the top ten shows in the adult 18-to-49 category but only one of them is new. The rest are aging franchises, including Grey’s Anatomy and Modern Family. When ABC launches Modern Family they own it and it’s a point of differentiation. However the only thing keeping these guys from death’s door right now are assets they don’t own that go to the highest bidder – specifically the Super Bowl, March Madness and the Olympics. What happens when, and it will, one of the Big Four – Apple, Amazon, Facebook and Google – begin bidding on these assets because they can monetize it elsewhere with their infinitely cheap capital? You’re going to see an incredible decline in television. It’s surprising how long things take, then shocking how fast they can happen. TV is about to enter the shocking phase. The only people left watching broadcast
ad-supported TV are going to be the poor and the technologically illiterate. A few weeks ago we referenced a wonderful nonprofit, Lifeline Syria, that is helping resettle Syrian families in Canada. Unfortunately there are now more donors
than there are families, as Canada has suspended the exemption that allowed these families to immigrate. We have instead decided to focus some efforts and raise some money on a wonderful charity called Gather for Goats, a worldwide benefit for Syrian refugees living in the desert in Jordan to provide a sustainable source of nutrition and hydration for children in the area. Specifically we’re going to raise some money and buy some goats for some good people. It’s strange, it’s innovative and we’d like to think it’s generous. Not bad things to have on your tombstone. We’ll see you next week.