How Amazon pulled off a media coup in Asia – by keeping its mouth shut

The retail giant’s stealth launch into South East Asia may have eventually paid off, but is the silent treatment always the best marketing tactic, asks Meltwater’s John Box

Over the past year, Amazon’s impending Singapore launch has been covered extensively by the media. But when the retail giant finally introduced Amazon Prime, its free-delivery service in Singapore last week, it was through a low-key launch event at its 100,000-square foot warehouse without any of the expected glitzy fanfare. And while the retail giant did post the press release on its website, it did remain eerily silent on social media.

None of this should come as a surprise. Saying very little has worked exceptionally well for Amazon in the past and helped them to generate maximum momentum and buzz. A quick Google search of the key words ‘Amazon’, ‘launch’ and ‘quiet’ reveals a similar strategy for the launches of Amazon in India, Prime Video in Australia, and Alexa, the company’s virtual personal assistant.

While it is still early days for the retailer in Singapore, our data shows that Amazon’s debut last week was a bit of a media coup.

Social media explosion

Even without any major promotional push, the US-based retailer took the internet by storm in Singapore and other South East Asian markets. With an exceptionally competitive e-commerce landscape in Singapore, Amazon’s arrival into the market was always going to generate interest, but it’s the extent to which it did that caught everyone off guard.

On Singapore’s launch day, there were more than 2,500 reactions on social media and there were over 1,100 online news stories globally. It quickly topped trending charts on social media, and most of that buzz was either neutral (58 per cent ) or positive (39 per cent), while just under four percent was negative.

Lessons for competitors

By being quiet, Amazon gained more attention and broke through the cluttered, always-on marketing campaigns of other e-commerce companies. More importantly, having consumers talk about your brand rather than Amazon shouting about it is much more authentic and true to its previous launch efforts.

While most of the content and reach was via Twitter, there was a whole lot of chatter happening on Facebook, Instagram and local forums such as Hardware Zone, too. It was the social and news trending themes that stood out. There were several mentions of Asian e-commerce rivals Lazada, Redmart and Honestbee alongside Amazon, implying that Singaporeans are eager for choice. In theory, rival retailers should be able to make use of this data to better understand their consumers and reach them more effectively.

The trend reflected on news sites too with TechCrunch, Mashable, Vulcan Post and ZDNet drawing competitor comparisons.

However, not all the buzz was positive as some consumers expressed annoyance and anger over expensive pricing, limited product range and late deliveries – issues the retailer is already working to smooth out.


Breaking down media coverage

Despite its local scope, Amazon picked up coverage in major regional and international outlets such CNBC, TechCrunch, Bloomberg and Reuters.

Regionally, it got prominently featured in The Star Online, Báo Mới, Saigon Times, The Edge Markets and Rappler.

The interest and coverage is understandable, given that the retail behemoth’s arrival in Singapore is a gateway to the larger South East Asian market of 600 million under-penetrated consumers. Equally, Amazon’s brand name, reputation and deep pockets are solidly established in the minds of South East Asian shoppers.

Some of this coverage, however, was overshadowed by news that CEO Jeff Bezos – briefly – became the world’s richest man. Local and international media outlets such as Bloomberg, The Straits Times, and Channel News Asia devoted some coverage around that, but it doesn’t appear to have cannibalised the launch coverage.

In a world dominated by big and sometimes bizarre campaigns, there is something to be said about the benefits of a discrete launch. But yet, time will tell if Amazon missed out on a bigger marketing opportunity.

John Box is the executive director for Meltwater Asia-Pacific


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