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Criticism mounts as 'peak' season for Amazon arrives

Benjamin Romano, The Seattle Times on

Published in Business News

Amazon's brand was the most valuable in the world this year – worth an estimated $335 billion, up 20% – surpassing Apple and Google, which traded the top spot for the last 12 years in a ranking by BrandZ, a unit of data and consulting company Kantar.

"Part of that is driven by the stellar financial performance, but part is driven by the depth of consumer equity for Amazon," said BrandZ global research director Martin Guerrieria.

But there are some signs of eroding consumer sentiment toward the retail giant. The share of negative and neutral online comments about Amazon has increased in the last two years, according to an analysis by Bain and Brandwatch.

"Although customers frequently express their love for Amazon, they have recently cited concerns about corporate issues, such as Amazon's treatment of workers and anticompetitive behavior," the Bain analysts wrote. "Shipping and delivery issues, poor product quality and customer experience were also common concerns."

Negative posts about the company tend to increase during the fourth quarter, the analysts noted.

Guerrieria said that overall consumer sentiment toward a brand hinges on several factors including corporate reputation, value and experience. Amazon ranked seventh in BrandZ's surveys on corporate reputation and trust.

Even if it were to slip on those measures, the company's value to consumers can insulate its overall reputation.

"That's definitely what we've seen with Volkswagen," Guerrieria said.

 

The German automaker's corporate reputation, stock price and sales tumbled in the wake of its diesel emissions scandal, in which the company was found in 2015 to have programmed software on about 11 million vehicles to spoof environmental tests.

But it continued to produce high-quality vehicles and deliver a great experience, Guerrieria said, and consumers were still willing to buy, even though they were aware of the scandal.

"Maybe we'll see that with Amazon as well," he said, noting that BrandZ will begin consumer sentiment interviews for its 2020 rankings in coming months. "Time will tell."

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