Retail Wars

I had a great discussion this morning with a very experienced entrepreneur about branding. Specifically, we discussed the 5 dimensions of a brand, which are:

  • Leadership
  • Vision
  • Communication
  • Experience
  • Culture

The main thrust of the discussion was the recent bad press about Amazon’s “toxic” work culture, which came immediately on the heels of the “news” that Amazon’s market capitalization ($216.72B) value had exceeded that of Wal-Mart ($205.95B). Both Amazon and Wal-Mart get high marks for each of the 5 dimensions of a brand.

However, the two brands obviously differ quite a bit. Here are some thoughts on the differences, which may equate to “reasons” that the stock market has valued Amazon higher than Wal-Mart, even after today’s sell-off.

  • Amazon is (or was) perceived as being cool, Wal-Mart is not.
  • Seattle vs. Arkansas; again, cool and not so cool.
  • There are no “people of Amazon” videos or pictures.
  • Walmart.com is less than 3% of Wal-Mart’s overall sales.
  • Amazon’s sales are 100% online.
  • Wal-Mart e-commerce revenues are likely to increase to $13 billion this year from $10 billion in fiscal 2014.
  • AMZN top line revenue in 2014: $88,988,000,000; they lost $241 million.
  • WMT 2014 revenue: $485,651,000,000; net income $16,363,000,000.
  • AMZN has $54,505,000 assets compared to WMT’s $203,706,000,000.

Lots of zeros up there, but far, far more for Wal-Mart. Two questions arose out of this conversation. The first is easy: why the hell is Amazon’s market cap higher than Wal-Mart’s? Since going public in 1997, 18 years ago, Amazon has accumulated less net income than Wal-Mart generated last quarter.

Can you say “internet bubble”?

The second question was about culture. Over the past century, we’ve seen a few really big brands or movements arise in our culture, whether they are actual businesses or cultural movements. The ones that were successful over the long term had something that the others did not: conscience. After what we’ve read and heard about working conditions at Amazon in recent weeks, how sustainable is Amazon’s brand in the long term?

Turns out, the people of Wal-Mart are far more entertained than the people who work at Amazon.

What do you think about that?