11:25 AM PST Thu, Dec 8, 2011
By Jason Calacanis
Amazon has white-label products -- but it's hiding them.
Following up on my piece last night, Dan Gillmor [ @dangillmor ] told me that Amazon had started creating its own products under the "AmazonBasics" brand. I was shocked, as every week five Amazon boxes come to our house with everything from soy milk to batteries, and obviously tons of electronics.
It turns out that one item I just ordered, a slick car charger with two USB ports, is being offered by Amazon under its own name.
Why didn't I see that when I searched for it?
Did I miss it in the search results and the related products?
So I searched Amazon for "double usb car charger" again, and after looking through page after page of search results, I couldn't find the Amazon product.
I added "amazon basics" to the end of my query and it didn't come up.
Nor did it come up in the related and people also bought/searched for widgets on the page of the product I bought.
However, if you search for AmazonBasics you'll find it as the 23rd listed item.
Why is Amazon taking the time to rewrite its search algorithm to remove its own products?
For background, Amazon first launched AmazonBasics in 2009 as a private-label electronics brand. When the program started, it offered only USB and A/V cables, ethernet cables and blank recordable media. Now, AmazonBasics features electronics accessories like mice, keyboards and tablet covers at prices typically at least 10% lower than brand-name products. For instance, Amazon sells a wireless mouse with a nano receiver for $16.75 while Logitech sells a similar mouse for $18.01.
No one really talks about it, in fact a search of Google News found only one story from a scraper/spam site mentioning AmazonBasics.
Someone claiming to be a developer at Amazon wrote on a message board that Amazon has two hidden house brands: Pinzon for kitchen and Strathwood for homes. Why wouldn't Amazon just brand those Amazon?
Oh yeah, the name Pinzon is based on that of a Spanish explorer who, wait for it, discovered the Amazon River. Cute.
It's worth reading the Pinzon and Strathwood descriptions:
These business have been around a long time, but it's really opaque that they are owned by Amazon.
What does "Strathwood offers stylish, high-quality furniture, décor, and more. Sold exclusively through Amazon.com" mean?
To me that says Strathwood is a stand-alone company that Amazon has exclusive rights to. Of course, the reality sounds like Strathwood is a house brand Amazon doesn't want you to know is a house brand.
"Invite Amazon.com's Pinzon products into your kitchen and home for their form and function, and experience their style, craftsmanship, and value" sounds slightly more like an Amazon brand -- but it's only marginally clearer.
Why not say these are Amazon brands?
Why would Amazon go through the trouble to both make and expand its own product line then not only not promote it but take the extra step to hide it?
There are two possible answers here:
First, Amazon is on the fence in some way about these white-label businesses. Are they worth pursing for the negative regulator attention they will certainly bring? What about the bad will from competing brands? There is probably a big debate going on over this at Amazon's HQ -- but not in Bezos' mind.
Bezos is an inevitable-ist, and more than willing to be the future -- even if it is painful.
Second, Amazon is lulling the products industry to death -- like they have lulled the book publishers to a certain death -- and they don't appreciate anyone putting a spotlight on these efforts.
It's amazing to me that Amazon's new competitors, like the book publishers and product creators, are not absolutely up in arms about Amazon's tactics. I mean, if you're a maker of tablets, should you really be supporting Amazon in any way? Their goal is to nuke the entire tablet space.
Perhaps the new crop of competitors is so scared of pissing off Amazon that it's willing to watch their businesses slowly get pulled out from under them.
These competitors are just flies in Amazon's web.
First they got caught in the web, then they got paralyzed by the venom. Now they're being wrapped up in the webbing, and tomorrow their liquefied remains will be sucked up by the industry's new tarantula.
I love it.
Bezos takes all.
Bezos is the new Jobs.
I for one salute our new overlord. Pass the (Amazon-branded) venom!
Pinzon kitchen products.
Strathwood furniture products.