The ritual of giving Amazon your money
Humans are about the ritual.
They have been since the dawn of time. We like to do things the same way over and over, as a signifier for everything.
A glass of orange juice when we first wake up says the day has started. We touch the grass as we run out onto the pitch to play in our Sunday League game. Dropping to our knees in prayer at the same time and same place each week centres us.
Some of those rituals are superficial and some are more deeply felt, but the consistency of their experience is reassuring to us and it is why it is hard to change the behaviour of people.
We do what we do and we like what we like.
That’s a lesson businesses have to understand in order to be successful and it’s why most marketing is created with the young in mind. You want to become part of a young person’s ritual that will last a lifetime. You’re mostly wasting time trying to change the behaviour of an older consumer.
There is an exception to this, however — disruption. When something significant happens that changes everyone’s behaviour then all bets are off. That can happen with innovation (when was the last time you hailed a cab, if you are in a city with Uber (NYSE: UBER)?), or with a shared global experience.
Like, say, a pandemic.
Most of the focus over the last 16 months has been on the negative impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on business. However, the smart operator should be looking at how its disruption has created an opportunity to change otherwise ingrained behaviours and gain new customers that you might have previously thought lost.
You can view Amazon’s (NASDAQ: AMZN) acquisition of the movie studio MGM in that light (Note: the purchase has yet to be approved by U.S. authorities. It must demonstrate that it does not violate U.S. antitrust laws). A purchase that raised some eyebrows, but makes perfect sense. Amazon realized — correctly, I think — that the ritual of going to the movies on a Friday night is one that isn’t much longer for this world.
Not because people are going to be scared to go back out, but rather because after more than a year of not doing it they realized how annoying the process was. Think about it — you rush from home or work, fight traffic, struggle to park the car, spend $30 to get in, then another $25 to get a popcorn and a drink, before sitting in a dark room with strangers that are talking when you don’t want them to and that you have to squeeze past to go to the bathroom halfway through the movie.
Why would you do that if you can pay one fee per month, pop your own popcorn for $1.25 and pause the movie for that bathroom run?
Outside of the ritual, there is no logical reason for that and with that ritual now drilled out of you Amazon has made the bet that by releasing movies straight to your living room that they can rely on you to keep sending that monthly subscription — and likely they can find a lot more people willing to do that same.
It’s smart business by a smart company that saw opportunity where many only doom.
And, it’s a decision that is going to change the rituals of movie lovers for generations.
It’s up to that industry to be equally creative in its reaction to this change, but that’s a topic for tomorrow…