The Amazon guide to dismantling a brand

How do you build a brand? 

There are many tried and tested methods. And all require hard work, drive and creativity.

But how do you kill one?

Amazon are showing how it’s done with their gradual dismantling of the Lovefilm service. It’s a textbook case in using carefully selected techniques to make users leave a service of their own accord. This will ensure that when the service closes few will be sad to see it go.

I’m not writing this out of some great passion for Lovefilm. Renting DVDs by post is obviously an obsolete delivery model with a finite lifespan. Amazon are now a Golden Globe winning content maker and it’s clear that online streaming has replaced traditional physical rental services. But rather than close the service overnight Amazon have gradually been making it less user friendly and have reduced its value for money.

The takeover

The writing was on the wall from the day Amazon purchased Lovefilm. It was pitched as a good thing, with customers benefiting from Amazon’s infrastructure. Of course, Amazon were interested in acquiring Lovefilm’s membership database rather than running a DVD delivery service. The obvious intention was to migrate this audience over to the Amazon Instant and Prime services.

Removed services

It didn’t take long for services to be removed. Video game rentals quickly disappeared, an expensive overhead that probably impacted new game sales .

Usability

The Lovefilm website underwent small and subtle changes. Search tools were simplified and navigation was tweaked, making it harder to find items, particularly new releases or popular films.

Branding

A period of dual-branding eases the transition for consumers by making them familiar with the new owner. Attaching the Amazon name to the service was the first explicit step in retiring the Lovefilm identity.

Migration

An Amazon account became a requirement to use Lovefilm, whether you wanted one or not.  Every Lovefilm customer who used the service had no choice but to migrate and be exposed to the wealth of other products Amazon supply.

Website 

Eventually the Lovefilm website was killed and its services were rolled into Amazon.co.uk. Lovefilm was buried within the Amazon store and navigation became almost deliberately obtuse.

Hilariously, the option to cancel your Lovefilm account was added as the first link on the Lovefilm account page. It was a clear indication of Amazon’s long-term intentions.

Pricing

After a brief period where prices went down, Amazon announced a huge price hike at the end of 2014. At this point many users, myself included, considered the service poor value for money. Particularly when streaming services like Netflix and, oh, Amazon Instant Video, cost less.

A convenient alternative

Amazon’s Instant Video was pitched the ready-made and natural replacement for members, even though it lacks the breadth of library in comparison to Lovefilm’s heyday. 

All of these factors have slowly chipped away at the Lovefilm. Making it slightly harder to use, slightly more inconvenient, slightly more expensive. Amazon are still running the servcie, but when the time comes to shut it down (I give it 18 months), I expect there will be very few subscribers left to mourn its passing.

So long, and thanks for all the discs.

Daniel New