RetailWire Christmas Commercial Challenge: Amazon vs. Best Buy

Source: Amazon's "Can You Feel It" spot
Nov 16, 2018
George Anderson

Week one of the Christmas Commercial Challenge was pretty evenly split. Members of RetailWire’s BrainTrust panel of industry experts generally agreed that Kohl’s “Gifts for Them, Cash for You” spoke more directly to the benefits of shopping at the chain while Macy’s “Space Station” got higher marks for emotional storytelling and production values.

This week’s challenge pits, which brings back its singing boxes full of Christmas cheer, against Best Buy, which emphasizes the role its associates can play in making this holiday season a merrier one for every member of its customers’ households.

In a nod to the differences in the types of the commercial — Amazon’s is long-form spot at 1:30 while Best Buy is running standard 30-second ads — we’re including two commercials from the consumer electronic retailer’s holiday campaign.

DISCUSSION QUESTIONS:  What is your critique of Amazon’s “Can you feel it?” and Best Buy’s “One Stop Shopping” and “Our Experts Make House Calls” commercials? Which retailer does a better job of connecting with its core customers while reaching out to new shoppers?

Please practice The RetailWire Golden Rule when submitting your comments.
"Given each retailer's respective brand position, I think that all these spots work. "
"Best Buy wins in my opinion because they highlight actual products and put an emphasis on the above-and-beyond customer service that Best Buy is known for."
"Sorry Amazon, I just don’t get it. And I didn’t feel it … a message from singing boxes?"

Join the Discussion!

26 Comments on "RetailWire Christmas Commercial Challenge: Amazon vs. Best Buy"

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Bob Phibbs

Hands down Best Buy with subtle messages of inclusion for the white guy helping the black woman and her nonchalant gift list including something for “my very busy wife.” In regards to Amazon, I think a lot of cities hoping to attract HQ2 can “feel it” and not in a good way.

Richard J. George, Ph.D.

Amazon’s 90 second commercial is entertaining. However, there’s nothing really new here to connect to core customers or attract new shoppers. On the other hand, the 30 second Best Buy commercial appears to solve customer problems in a unique and entertaining way. My vote: Best Buy.

Liz Adamson

Best Buy does a much better job in making their commercials feel personal. Not knowing what to buy family and friends for Christmas is a struggle we can all relate to, Best Buy capitalizes on that and makes you feel that they just may have something for everyone on your list. The one-to-one conversation between the customer and Best Buy associate makes it feel personal.

Amazon on the other hand missed the mark on this one. While personification can be effective when done well, the animation of their singing boxes just doesn’t quite hit the mark. It seems they are trying to communicate the excitement and anticipation that comes with having their signature boxes, perhaps full of gifts, delivered and waiting to be opened, however it does not match the more personal nature of the Best Buy commercial.

Harley Feldman

Amazon’s commercial clearly represents the Christmas holiday season with the joy of giving and receiving. Best Buy’s commercial is more about its customer service and could be played any time of the year. Amazon does a better job of connecting to its core customers and reaching out to new shoppers for the busy Christmas season. Best Buy’s message of helping consumers find gifts will touch some people but it will have limited impact since it is an any time message.

Steve Montgomery

Best Buy’s ads are a more direct: “here is what we can do for you and those you are buying for.” The Amazon ad doesn’t feature any specific gifts but focuses on the emotions of giving and receiving gifts. Its ad was more entertaining to watch and certainly to listen to. I’m not sure how you take a one and a half minute ad and trim it to the typical 30 second for TV.

Both ads should appeal to their core customers. I believe the Best Buy ad will appeal to new customers because it illustrates how the human touch can assist shoppers in selecting the right gifts. For that reason my vote goes to Best Buy.

Dave Bruno

Given each retailer’s respective brand position, I think that all these spots work. Amazon’s spot does an excellent job of bringing to life that involuntary twitch of anticipation I think many of us get when we see the Amazon smile outside our door, even when we know what it contains. Combined with a catchy hook, I think it serves as a great emotional reinforcement for the ubiquitous brand. And Best Buy’s spots, on the other hand, do an excellent job of building greater equity in their value proposition as a total service provider and consultant. I particularly love the almost subliminal reinforcement of the “blue shirts” brand through the excellent use of color throughout the ads. Well done to both!

Art Suriano
Amazon’s commercial was fun, upbeat and made you feel good. However, what it actually does for Amazon is questionable because it could almost have been for any retailer that sells Amazon’s Echo. Best Buy put more thought into developing an ad that would quickly get a message across. I liked the black and white concept with only the Best Buy shirt in blue which stood out along with the Best Buy name on the shirt, so we immediately knew what company the ad was featuring. Also, it gave direct holiday product information and let the viewer know that Best Buy was there to help make the right choice, with same day delivery. It covered a lot in 30 seconds. The Amazon commercial was 90 seconds long and would never run on TV. At best we will see a watered-down version with the voices singing “Can You Feel It” but I’m not sure how that will really sell Amazon product, but of course there will be many who believe Amazon doesn’t have to “sell” anything because… Read more »
Neil Saunders

Best Buy’s advertisement is not very festive, but it does get some important messages across — namely that Best Buy has gifts for everyone, has good customer service, and is a destination for holiday shopping.

Amazon’s advertisement is much jollier and upbeat. I like that Alexa features in the spot. I also like the sense of connection that Amazon portrays in the sense that you order goods and they are shipped out to people and touch lives.

Overall, my vote goes for Amazon. Sorry, but I love the anthropomorphic boxes!

Rich Kizer

Sorry Amazon, I just don’t get it. And I didn’t feel it … a message from singing boxes? Some people may get excited over delivery of a box, but isn’t that kind of expected now? So there was little emotional content for the Amazon ad (excluding the chld in the hospital), but Best Buy demonstrated a problem solved, smart associates, extended service in the home — case closed. Best Buy by a long shot.

Georganne Bender

What I love about this is that we are diametrically opposed to which commercial is the best. I guess that’s what makes for a great partnership, right?

Georganne Bender

This one is tough because the commercials are so different, and they are all very good. I love Best Buy’s simple, “Let’s talk about what possible.” Those commercials will definitely make me take a second look at Best Buy this Christmas.

But Amazon’s “Can You Feel It?” got me. I felt it. Goosebumps. And I went back a couple of times to see the faces of the people in the commercial because some of their expressions were priceless. This one is the winner in my book; it screams holiday and family and friends.

Evan Snively

Tie. A 0-0 tie.
I actually think that the Amazon spot could be more effective in 30 second form. Just long enough to build to the excitement of giving the right gift which inspires shoppers. Definitely more tailored to bringing back its core customers … which unfairly enough is about 3/4 of America. Best Buy’s ads seem more focused on sharing the value proposition of the business — “we make house calls” and “one-stop shopping” — but the interactions seemed rather uninspiring.

Dick Seesel

I see some similarities to last week’s commercial challenge: The Amazon ad is all about brand-building and emotional resonance — and trying to soften the company’s growing image as a monolith. It very pointedly didn’t focus on specific product, because everybody already knows that you can buy anything from Amazon. Tying a feeling of goodwill to the Amazon box showing up at your door is an effective message — more so than last week’s Macy’s ad, which could have been for any product.

The Best Buy ad was more akin to last week’s Kohl’s ad: It’s more solution-oriented and product-specific. It also reminds shoppers that there is a human being at the other end of your interaction — if that’s what you want — unlike Amazon. Best Buy’s ads may turn toward a warmer message as the season goes on (especially compared to the chilly black-and-white and blue color scheme of these spots), but it’s a solid start.

George Anderson

Both the Amazon and Best Buy spots have their strengths as mentioned by those who have chimed in so far. I would add just one personal anecdote from researching this article. Our 11-year-old has been singing the chorus of The Jackson’s “Can You Feel It” pretty much nonstop since she walked into my office earlier this week while I was watching the Amazon spot for the first time. She also watched the Best Buy spots, shrugged her shoulders and went on her way. Can you feel it?

Meaghan Brophy

I feel like Amazon gets points for the actors in their commercials — their expressions are what made the spot great. It’s not surprising that they used the same singing box concept as last year. But given the recent HQ2 drama I don’t think the average customer is as receptive to that imagery.

Best Buy wins in my opinion because they highlight actual products and put an emphasis on the above-and-beyond customer service that Best Buy is known for. Shopping online can feel really impersonal, and this Best Buy commercial highlights what a difference great in-store service can make in the shopping experience.

Doug Garnett
Hands down: Best Buy. Amazon does a nice job of leveraging their smile boxes — except it gets really, really old. I kept wanting to see something in the boxes. And the song that went with it was so generic the words almost made me want to join the “there’s a war on Christmas!” folks. Why would the words to a song be so blandly written and then featured? In the deep background, it would have been OK. That said, the Amazon problem is the length — the mini-film. Of course, that isn’t what they’ll put on TV (I don’t know why clients keep paying for these agency show pieces). Best Buy is on target. They did a great job of balancing the roles. Very Christmas oriented. Good details mentioned without being silly (often a problem in ads like these). That said, I’m not entirely thrilled with the production — especially of the second one. I presume they were real Best Buy employees. If so, they should have made that a bit clearer. I’d be… Read more »
Patricia Vekich Waldron

Amazon tells a story about all their offerings (Alexa, lockers, Prime, etc.), while Best Buy solves consumers’ problems with an inclusive cast.

Lee Peterson

Well, it’s like form vs. function, Best Buy being more of the latter. In my opinion if you’re going to do a feel good ad, look at what Apple does — amazing visuals with some great song you never heard before. i.e.: Super Hooks. It looks like Amazon was aiming at feel good but couldn’t make up their minds enough to go all the way, a la Apple, so this ad totally fails on that front.

The Best Buy ads are simple. They tell you what they do and sell, both of which are pretty unique, and get out of Dodge. With just these examples present, Best Buy seems the better of the two. it could be that someone coming in your house and setting up crazy tech equipment might even be called a feel good ad. It is for me!

James Tenser

One aspect of the Amazon ad I found notable was its use of video clips that revealed its process, like the Kiva robots, the workers in the fulfillment center, the pickup lockers and hand-trucks delivering those singing boxes. Its people are portrayed as friendly cogs in the system.

Best Buy portrays its people as problem solvers — a sharp contrast — but the vignettes are a bit stilted.

Overall, Amazon earns a slight edge for its upbeat tone and the memorable branding of its singing boxes.

David Naumann

I think both brands do a good job of connecting with their customers, but have very different approaches. Amazon is appealing to consumers emotions and the feeling we get when we see an Amazon package outside our door. It is feeling of excitement and the iconic Amazon package reinforces the feeling. The commercial is good, but I think it gets very repetitive and the message could have been delivered in a 30 second commercial. I guess Amazon has money to burn.

They Best Buy commercials appeal to consumers desire to save time by making shopping easier. Personally, I think this is a more compelling message that may change consumers shopping decisions to add Best Buy to their list of stores to shop.

Lee Kent

Best Buy without a doubt. It was clearly Best Buy, they gave you reason to want to shop with them. Plus, some great ideas! They get my 2 cents.

Ricardo Belmar
Both of these are great at their intended purpose. Amazon, as the “everything store” doesn’t really need to focus on products so they strive to instill a feel-good moment through their ad while still subtly bringing in strong imagery of their logistics process and reinforce the idea that they can deliver to you no matter where you are whenever you want. Plus the added touch of convenience they show us with Alexa. Kudos to Best Buy on the other hand for focusing on a core asset — their well-trained associates and how they can help any customer with the difficult task of finding the right gift. These ads do a fantastic job of reminded the shopper that they can count on getting the help they need in the store — and nice touch highlighting how they can help you in your own home! At the same time, you could see these ads playing at almost any time of year, so they don’t do the best job of leveraging the holiday season. Still, I give the… Read more »
Craig Sundstrom

“Too soon.” I’m not normally one to use that phrase, but after yesterday’s
discussion about omnipotent Amazon, I found their ad — talking boxes everywhere — more than a little creepy.

None of the ads wowed me; happily, both companies seemed to make some connection to their specific products/expertise; but the effort was pretty minimal, and as seems to be the case (all too) often in these contests, they could be any company, anywhere.

Jeff Miller
Pretty simple campaigns: Amazon = millions of brown boxes Best Buy= helpful people I like people more than boxes. Amazon highlights what makes holiday shopping at Amazon so boring and tries to tie emotion to it, getting brown boxes — lots of them — in the mail. No one stares at a truck full of Amazon boxes with joy except maybe the thieves who plan to steal them off the porch when they are dropped off. The only saving grace is that at least they showed real humans in their warehouses this year instead of robots and the song is a great commercial jingle. I am still singing “can you feel it?” Best Buy kills it in this match up. Explains what makes them stand out from others and focuses on it. Real people helping you with two real world problems — a difficult Christmas list and home technology set up. It showcases popular products like the drone and Nintendo Switch but no mention of discounts which is great. The CTA highlights free shipping and… Read more »
Carlos Arambula

Although they are both Holiday themed spots, they are very different in function. Amazon is talking to its core customers, reminding them of the holiday, the anticipation, and how they play a role in it.

Best Buy’s spots are traffic driven, designed to drive current and new customers looking for a gift solution and unaware, or forgetful, of how the retailer can help.

Both of the spots effectively communicate to consumers.

I do have an issue with the promise of the Best Buy spots. Holiday’s are busy and if customers expect a similar experience as depicted in the ads, they will be disappointed — perhaps my experience of walking into Best Buy last Holiday season colors my opinion.

Seth Nagle

Best Buy solves the problem … “What do I get …” While Amazon gets you ready to pull out that credit card and just start spending. I prefer the Best Buy commercial as it portrays to the consumer we have something for everyone and here’s why.

"Given each retailer's respective brand position, I think that all these spots work. "
"Best Buy wins in my opinion because they highlight actual products and put an emphasis on the above-and-beyond customer service that Best Buy is known for."
"Sorry Amazon, I just don’t get it. And I didn’t feel it … a message from singing boxes?"

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