On Monday, 2 December 2013 hundreds of millions of people around the world went online to do their Christmas shopping. Dubbed Cyber Monday or Mega Monday depending on which side of the Atlantic you live or which credit card you use, it is the busiest day of the year for online shopping.

As people went online that Monday morning, they would have been greeted with a torrent of ads and emails promoting deals and savings from a huge array of retailers, who paid millions to get those ads in front of eager shoppers.

But one retailer more than most was filling online news pages that day – and it didn't pay a penny for the promotion.


Amazon had just revealed that it was testing a system of delivering packages to customers within minutes of them placing their order using unmanned drones. The reaction was, as expected, widespread and breathless.

The future was here. It was a paradigm shift in online retailing. It was going to change everything.

Except it isn't, it was all just a huge marketing ploy by Amazon to make it the most talked-about company on the one day of the year that really matters.

Even a luddite would have been able to spot the gaping holes in Amazon's proposed system yet most publications (ours included) completely ignored these in the face of such good story.

Predictable response

This week we have seen another 'revolutionary' Amazon development talked about at length in the press. Amazon will soon be able to predict what you are going to buy and ship it to you before you even complete the sale online.

Once again coverage of Amazon's latest 'innovation' has been widespread, despite the news being based on nothing more than a patent filing which Amazon has not commented on.

The system - which Amazon may already have in place – sees popular items shipped to local depots, so when you do finally click on the Buy button, the item will be shipped faster - it's not so much a 'revolutionary' change as a pedestrian update to Amazon's continuing effort to speed up delivery time so you will buy more of its products.

And yet Amazon's name is all over the press – both mainstream and tech – and while the company may not have promoted this new feature itself, by failing to comment it is playing the game perfectly, allowing for wild speculation and theorising.

Cat nip

But why is Amazon such cat nip for newspapers, websites and journalists?

Some of the reason is down to its enigmatic founder Jeff Bezos, whose unique leadership style has become (in)famous inside and outside the company. Ever since he established Amazon to be 'The Everything Shop' in the late 1990s, Bezos has held an iron grip on the company which has seen Amazon survive the dot com bubble bursting, and thrive during the recent economic downturn.

Creating a mythology around himself and his company may not have been a marketing tactic from the outset, but Amazon and Bezos now actvely cultivate it in order to keep people talking about the company even when there is nothing of substance to talk about.

In that respect Amazon is very much like Apple, which has used the mythology which has built up around Steve Jobs to create an almost cult-like following for its iProducts.

And while there is nothing inherently wrong with what Amazon is doing with its delivery drones and predictive delivery, the next time you see the latest wild story about Amazon's products, just stop of a second and ask yourself is this just another marketing ploy?