Drones Are So Last Year At Amazon, Yet The PR Machine Rolls On

Remember last Cyber Monday? Amazon was the center of attention, but not for its sales. It was in the news for its “drones” and Amazon Prime Air, a skunkworks project that suggested Big Seattle would soon be shipping products via quadcopter. Jeff Bezos legitimately shocked everyone during an interview with CBS’ 60 Minutes by announcing the retail giant was experimenting so boldly. But that was last year.

Now Amazon is back, but with robots.

Amazon knows what it’s doing. The timing is perfect. Today’s robot news ensures the morning talk shows remind middle-America about Amazon on the biggest online shopping day of the year. It’s akin to putting a fake “Going Out Of Business” sign up on a busy thoroughfare. You’ll gather the curious and the curious will shop.

This year’s news plays perfectly with the growing trend of smarter robots. Amazon’s warehouse robots are almost cute. Named Kiva, they’re like large Roombas, tasked with carrying around warehouse shelves. More important than being cute, Amazon was keen to point out that Kiva helps humans do the hard work of picking the products.

This is the Amazon PR machine at its best. The company slyly invited some of the world’s leading publications to experience something secret. Hush-hush. These publications were then told to hold their stories until midnight last night. The embargo was up just as Cyber Monday kicked off.

Amazon learned a lesson last year. The story about Amazon Prime Air was questioned primarily because the system was demonstrated only to CBS. Everyone questioned whether Amazon PR took Charlie Rose for a ride. This year, half a dozen publications were shown the warehouse robots.

Media tours are standard operating procedure for many companies. Microsoft, Google, and even Apple occasionally invite the press to witness the company at work. Automobile companies tend to make their tours multi-day events, flying journalists and bloggers to different locations and putting them up in ritzy hotels in exchange for coverage of a new car.

Yet it’s Amazon that times its press events perfectly. If the press is wiling to give Amazon free publicity (and we are), the company is wise to use it to boost sales and awareness on the biggest online shopping day of the year.

Amazon is currently flying high on its holiday sales expectations. The stock has recovered from a slight downturn in the summer. Yet in the world of online sales, retails need to keep pounding the consumer lest they lose out. And there isn’t a better way to boost awareness than distraction.