What We Can Learn From Amazon’s HQ2 Failure

by Justin Grensing, Esq., MBA

 We recently wrote a blog post on some of the lessons to be learned from a decision by retail giant Amazon to abandon plans to open one half of its HQ2 in New York City. The media have been quick to label the decision as a failure and a PR disaster for the firm that stirred up months of media frenzy when it announced its search for an HQ2 several months ago.

It’s hard to characterize the company’s NYC pullout as anything but a failure. Despite all its money, power and clout, Amazon couldn’t get its way when trying to find a second home. Even worse, its defeat came at the hands of a popular uprising of community members critical of the tax incentives and business practices that have colored its brand in the eyes of many.

Amazon Embraces Failure

But failure shouldn’t be the end of the road for any company. In an article for CNN Business analyzing the decision to abandon the NYC project, David Goldman shared a quote from Amazon founder and CEO Jeff Bezos at the Insider Ignition conference in 2014: “Companies that don’t embrace failure and continue to experiment eventually get in the desperate position where the only thing they can do is make a Hail Mary bet at the end of their corporate existence.”

What Others Can Learn

It’s an admirable attitude to embrace and something that other leaders can learn from. Failures happen. The question is how does the organization respond? In an article for Harvard Business Review titled “Strategies for Learning from Failure,” Amy C. Edmondson talks about three categories of failures:

  • Preventable failures in predictable operations
  • Unavoidable failures in complex systems
  • Intelligent failures at the frontier

Amazon’s failure in New York probably falls somewhere between the 2nd and 3rd buckets. Setting up a new headquarters is certainly not “at the frontier” and far from unheard of. But with an organization as large and prominent as Amazon, it’s certainly complex, and the influence of community members and public opinion in the digital age arguably adds a bit of the “frontier” element.

Amazon has the potential to learn a lot of lessons from this failure. It’s gained invaluable experience trying to establish a new headquarters and managing a public backlash from a vocal minority in a media frenzy it created itself. How it uses that experience is yet to be seen.

About Us

Strategic Communications, LLC, works with B2B clients to help them achieve their goals through effective content marketing and management with both internal and external audiences. We are adept at evaluating and analyzing communication efforts and working with clients to plan, create and publish high-quality, unique content, through both on- and offline media to achieve desired results. Our background in business journalism, marketing, PR/media relations and online communications makes us well-positioned to serve the needs of 21st-century marketers.

We serve clients who are looking for help creating content for a wide array of channels—from social media posts to full-length manuscripts, and everything in between. We focus primarily on service-related B2B topics and work with a number of independent consultants interested in building their thought leadership through online channels. For ongoing content management, our first step is to fully understand your goals, objectives and competitive landscape.

Then we’ll conduct a thorough analysis and assessment of your digital presence, compared to competitors, and recommend a communication strategy to achieve your goals. But, we also regularly take on individual projects – white papers, blog posts, contributed articles, etc. If you’re interested in learning more, let us know!

(Strategic Communications is certified as a Woman-Owned Business Enterprise through the Wisconsin Department of Administration.)

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