Amazon’s Revolving Door of Brands

Juozas Kaziukėnas, Marketplace Pulse:

In the headphones category on Amazon, 1,800 different products from 666 brands were among the top 100 best-sellers in the last twenty-four months. That’s nearly three new products from almost one new brand every day replacing current items in the best-sellers list. Those brands are pseudo-brands like NUBBYO, LAFITEAR, NANMING, AIWONS, or HWCONA.

Only five brands – Apple, Samsung, Sony, Soundcore, and Tozo – had a product in the headphones best-sellers list for the entire twenty-four months. Just twenty have been in it for over 500 days (70% of the time). More than half of brands were on the list for only five days or less; hundreds of brands that gained some momentum, all to get lost among the sea of lookalikes a few days later.

I appreciate this longer-term view into the staying power — or lack thereof — of passthrough trademarks raised in a story I linked to last year by John Herrman, New York Times:

“For brand owners, enrolling provides you with powerful tools to help protect your trademarks, including proprietary text and image search and predictive automation,” the company declares. It gives owners control over product listings that contain their products, and the ability to protect themselves against unauthorized sellers using their names. Crucially, Amazon says on its site, “it gives you more access to advertising solutions, which can help you increase your brand presence on Amazon,” as well as to “utilize the Early Reviewer Program to gain initial reviews on new products” — a sanctioned method for improving a product’s search result.

If you’re feeding a brand-new listing into the Amazon machine, in other words, and doing so without a pre-existing brand or customers, getting into Brand Registry is extremely important. To achieve real and lasting success on Amazon, it’s vital.

As of 2017, it also requires a registered trademark.

Amazon’s policies have singlehandedly incentivized the creation of hundreds of these nonsense trademarks, and Kaziukėnas shows that they have no long-term staying power. These are entirely disposable brands for disposable goods: if you have a problem with your new pair of HWCONA headphones, where do you turn to get them fixed? What company is staking their reputation on the quality of these products? From a consumer’s perspective, there is nothing giving these products any greater expectations than some knock-off brand stocked in a dollar store.

I would love to see an investigation like the one Kaziukėnas did across dozens of different product categories to see if the results are similar.