Amazon’s Kindle Fire Broke a Vital Content Marketing Rule: Understand Your Customers’ Needs Before Attempting to Provide a Solution

Kindle Fire Mad MenTens of Thousands of Disappointed Users Expected Much More from Jeff Bezos and His Crew

As many content marketing thought leaders have pointed out, Amazon is a superb content marketer. When it comes to books, for example, the content they provide increasingly replicates and replaces the individual attention that independent stores have provided for hundreds of years. Amazon learns what you like, makes great suggestions, invite you to participate in evaluating books, music, videos, and tons of other products.

Although they were not the first to deliver an e-reader, the Kindle quickly came to dominate the e-book marketplace. Moreover, Amazon was brilliant to enable Kindle functionality on your PC, on iPad, on an iPhone on a Android phone, and pretty much anywhere you are likely to consume books.

So, naturally, those of us who are genuine Amazon fans expected much more From the hugely hyped Kindle Fire.

I, along with hundreds of thousands of other Amazon fans, pre-ordered the Kindle Fire, expecting that it would be the kind of game changer represented by the original Kindle. Imagine my surprise to find that it was deeply flawed. I believe that these flaws stem from the critical content marketing rule that Amazon violated with the Kindle Fire:

They didn’t understand their customers’ needs.

It’s safe to say that many buyers of the Kindle Fire are already users of the iPhone, the iPad or a smart Android device.  Moreover, a high percentage certainly read Kindle books on non-Kindle devices. They are used to Amazon’s open approach to delivering content.

Therefore, their expectations would include a high level of tablet computing functionality and a first-rate set of apps that would at least come close to matching what the iPad delivers.  I can only assume that Amazon figured that a $300 savings versus the base iPad would dramatically lower expectations from customers. If so, that was a most unfortunate assumption.

How did they abuse us? Let me count the ways:

  • the Fire suffers from a generally cumbersome interface that only reinforces how good Apple is at making it easy for their iPad and iPhone users to be super functional, almost from the get-go.
  • they overhyped the Silk browser, which turned out to be very slow–in fact, dramatically slower than the Safari browser on the iPad and iPhone.
  • The Wi-Fi antenna requires a very strong signal to deliver acceptable throughput.
  • The homepage with the scrolling set of icons representing most recently opened content is pretty lame
  • And, the fact that you cannot delete any of those icons means that every family member will know what every other family member was doing on the Fire.
  • Because you set up one-click ordering with no password, your kids–or pretty much anyone–could purchase what ever Amazon sells. Yikes!
  • The Amazon app store is missing some of the most popular apps that are available on the iPad, iPhone and even the Android marketplace. To get at this stuff, you can sideload or jailbreak the Fire, but that’s not something the typical user is capable of doing.

How are users reacting? Not very favorably judging by the reviews on More than 20% give one or two star reviews. That represents a lot of very unhappy customers. Here is a representative comment from a 2-star reviewer, who otherwise loves Amazon:

The bottom line is it’s just not the Kindle I have come to know and absolutely loooooove…I soooo wanted to love the Fire but was just disappointed and became more and more so as I kept using it…printed out the return label already…I ordered the Kindle Touch for my mom for Christmas so I’m going to see what it’s like (hopefully it’s exactly like my old Kindle Keyboard 3G except with a touch keyboard instead of the physical one) and if I like it then I will order the Touch 3G for myself. If it is also a disappointment then I’ll go back to the Kindle Keyboard 3G. Rarely ever disappointed with an Amazon purchase but seriously so with the Kindle Fire. :-(

Amazon has shown in so many ways over so many years that it loves and understands its customers. But the Kindle Fire demonstrates that, at least this once, it has broken the vital content marketing rule, “Understand your customers.”

I, and zillions of others, are still pretty confident that Amazon will listen to the cries of customer dismay and respond quickly and appropriately. Their customer understanding will have come late, but hopefully not too late to salvage a product with so much potential.

Let’s hope that it does not become the Yugo of tablet computers.

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