An Open Letter to Jeff Bezos and Mayor de Blasio

It’s likely to be the biggest lottery win any of us will ever see…like breaking the bank at Monte Carlo, or the Holy Grail. Think of it as a pot of gold–or Bitcoins, or whatever’s trending today–at the end of the rainbow.

Haven’t guessed yet? Then I need to know where you are placing bets. Because Amazon’s quest to find a new hub is already legendary.

According to Amazon’s stated plans, the prize (beyond the obvious bragging rights) is worth $5 billion in investment, plus the creation of some 50,000 new jobs. On top of the $5 billion, think about the restaurants, coffee shops, services and traffic that will create.

And while they don’t seem to care about profit much in most instances, (this being Amazon after all) the auction they are creating for what amounts to the prize of the century so far has already earned them an offer of $7 billion in tax breaks from at least one of the contenders: Newark.

No comment.

Of course, this begs the question of how Newark would handle infrastructure growth and support for the blessing…just saying.

The finalist list is rather broad, and in true Bezos fashion, gives nothing away. It’s so incredibly diverse regionally, philosophically, culturally and size-wise.

What we do know is that the initial criteria were (mostly) clear: proximity to a major airport; ability to attract tech talent; a suburban or urban area with more than 1 million people.

The next round will be the deep dive. How will the city in question accommodate Amazon’s hiring plans, to benefit both its workers and the local community?

The comprehensive list starts alphabetically with Atlanta and ends with Washington. Boston, Chicago, Los Angeles, Miami, New York and Philadelphia are included within, just to name a few.

Now let me be shameless. As an addicted Amazon shopper – on and off-line. As a follower of Bezos, and a dyed-in-the-wool booster and cheerleader for New York, let me help make the case for my city.

What follows is meant for Jeff Bezos’ and Mayor de Blasio’s eyes only. It is proof positive why New York is the only city that is a win-win for all. (Yes, I said shameless!)

Gentlemen (and ladies on the team),

My company, Young & Rubicam, has been resident in New York for some 92 years, having relocated from Philadelphia when it became obvious that the city and company needed each other to create greater success.

We have thrived here, and are now global with 189 offices in 93 countries. While we rarely talk about a headquarters office in the era of the shrinking world, New York does remain our founding icon.

It was in New York in the early ‘90s that we created and developed the world’s most important Brand Study — BAV, BrandAsset Valuator. BAV is the leading database of consumer perceptions of brands that has provided us with a model for brand management that is both diagnostic and prescriptive.

So clearly, we study Amazon.

As you might’ve suspected, Amazon is one of the most highly regarded and valued brands in the world, with high levels of Differentiation, Relevance, Esteem and Knowledge across all audiences. Amazon also scores in the highest percentiles of brands that are dynamic, distinctive and progressive.

So far so good, Jeff.

But never fear, Mr. Mayor. New York is also a leadership brand which leaves other city brands like Austin (an up-and-comer), Philadelphia, Los Angeles, and Miami (lagging) tired behind.

In fact, compared to other city brands, New York ranks as more of a Leader, has more Authenticity, engenders more Prestige, is seen as more Up to Date, and is (unsurprisingly) more Glamorous.

But a deal like this needs to be a win-win for all. What one lacks the other needs to fill in. The sum needs to be bigger than either side.

We learn from BAV that a circling dance of same alphas is never productive, nor does the marriage of woefully disparate strengths bode well. Brands in concert, in deals, need to complement each other. One fills in the weak holes of the other, as they create new power where it didn’t exist.

So as a New Yorker, I must admit that BAV data demonstrate New York lags behind Amazon in the attributes we aggregate as Approachable. We are distant to their approachable. Amazon ranks higher than our city in Cares about Customers, Helpful and Down to Earth. They are even ahead in Friendly.

On the other hand, New York balances Amazon’s Simplistic with our Sophistication, highlighting all of the attributes I mentioned above.

The two together? A powerhouse of unbeatable brand strength for both. Each building on the other and frankly each benefiting its workers, its citizens, its visitors in ways that will create true value for all.

Jeff (forgive the familiarity, but I have been a customer since day one) you can pick any city you’d like, or build one of your own. But power needs power, and the kind of power that can be created by the merging of these two brands will be unique.

And Mr. Mayor, do shop at Amazon. There are actually two Amazon neighborhood stores just across the street from me at Columbus Circle, worth a deeper look. And we do need a little shot of simple and humble to round us out. New Yorkers will be grateful.

So there you have it. Anything less would not be fair to Amazon and its huge base of customers, nor to New York and its exciting diverse population. it is a win-win for all…the best kind of deal.

Best of all, this analysis and its conclusion are rooted in fact–hard data.


“The great thing about fact-based decisions is that they overrule the hierarchy”

Jeff Bezos

So there ya go Jeff, facts! Let us know how we can help!

Meanwhile, I’m off to Whole Foods…and then maybe I’ll grab a book upstairs.

What do you think?

Related posts: