AUC’s Victor Lee on why brands should embrace the power of Amazon


To effectively leverage the power of social media marketing tactics for retail requires that brands embrace a specific mentality, a firm “let’s do it,” coupled with a spirit of experimentation. It’s about the need to banish complacency, be an avid student of consumer behavior and wholeheartedly embrace the power of Amazon as a vital part of the total ecommerce ecosystem and not just a “pure play” retailer.

We spoke with Victor Lee, president of Advantage United Commerce, an Advantage solutions marketing agency, on why 2024 must be the year of do, not try.

You said TikTok Shop and social media retail marketing tactics are no longer “nice to haves,” they’re “must try nows.” What specific tactics or strategies should retailers or brands lean into?

Retailers should start thinking of themselves less as a destination where consumers end up when they want or need something at a good price, and more like their own marketing engine to enhance why they matter. 

Look at Stanley’s recent success. They reinvented themselves after more than 100 years as essentially a seller of construction workers’ thermoses. Then they went viral on social media with an ‘it’ product and parlayed that into more success with in-store installations at retailers like Target.

Retailers and brands must learn to be flexible in terms of adapting to current consumer behavior. They have to ask: How can we reinvent ourselves? What’s our consumer motivation? Figure that out, live it, and create the most evocative, memorable customer experience ever. 

How does reinvention happen for bigger, more established brands and retailers who may find it tougher to change course and be more adaptive?

Disney has timeless IP. It’s been the happiest place on earth for decades, but when the hit movie “Pirates of the Caribbean” became a franchise, Disney built a ride out of that. Culture can and should influence marketing a business, and when you’re open to those influences it’s easier to create moments of reinvention. 

It’s about never being complacent, never letting the consumer get too used to you. You want them to go in store or visit online and experience something new.

Retailers also have to live up to the consumer’s more sophisticated expectations for that experience and deliver every single time. That’s the playbook, then you integrate that into your retail marketing strategy.

Your operational business model should be built to move with trends. That’s not about being innovative. It’s simply giving people what they need and want. Whether you offer exclusive products like Stanley did, or a great loyalty program, or a pop-up shop within a brick-and-mortar destination, create those natural, memorable synergies that reflect consumer behavior, and use social media and pop culture to drive that behavior in targeted campaigns.

Can you give us an example?

Solo Stove, that smokeless outdoor fire pit that a lot of people bought during COVID because everybody was at home, recently ran a massive campaign featuring Snoop Dogg. He teased it on social, saying, and I’m paraphrasing, ‘I’ve got something to tell people. I’m going smokeless.’ Well, everybody knows Snoop is synonymous with years of dedicated, unapologetic smoke. So, when that came out it peaked a lot of interest. 

Didn’t the CEO move on not too long after that?

That’s the irony. The company generated a ton of interest, but they didn’t get enough short-term sales to justify that campaign. It could have been timing, but it’s more likely the company had the wrong goals and expectations. Having Snoop launch this national campaign and expect stoves to fly off the shelves and generate record short-term growth was shortsighted. They needed to generate momentum from the buzz and play the long game, but they thought putting Snoop on a TV ad and doing a campaign that probably costs millions of dollars would make them a billion dollars overnight. But that never happens — never.

Let’s get back to e-commerce and what to do in 2024. What’s one underrated marketing tactic retailers should reconsider?

I’d say embrace the power of Amazon. 

I talked to a few people toward the end of 2023 about different seemingly overnight success stories, anomalies like Stanley. But while these viral hits were notable, it was not genius. Those campaigns worked because somebody embraced a new idea, along with the technology, and the experiment paid off. None of them can touch what we did on Amazon during Black Friday and Cyber Monday, or T5.

I want to challenge everybody to think: This is the year to stop being so damn afraid. This is the year to embrace Amazon because Amazon isn’t going away. They’ve been around for 30 years. 

That said, there is nothing you can do on Amazon that you’ll win an award for. It’s not sexy marketing. What you can do on Amazon is drive the **** out of your sales — but only if you embrace it wholeheartedly.

At the end of the day, what do you want to say? Look, I made the cover of Ad Age, or I increased my sales goal five times over?

So, creativity doesn’t matter?

It matters, but think about how consumers digest marketing messages. It’s not always about creativity. It’s about: Do we remember this brand? If we remember it, are we going to associate it with a need that we have? And, is it easy for people to find?

It’s about headlines and product descriptions, understanding how to work with  SEO and the algorithm. In my old days at Hasbro, we used to do copy for Amazon, and the brand people would say change this to “NAME OF NEW TOY and BRANDING TAGLINE.” I told them, audiences don’t remember the name of the toy or your tagline. People aren’t typing in “Just Do It” when searching for Nike. They’re typing in “best new toy” or “new NAME OF BRAND.”

In the digital space, it’s not just about your brand, it’s about customers: Can they find what they like? And when they search, do they find you? When they do, that’s when the creativity, product attributes, value and solving for their needs come in.

Let’s say they have the optimal marketing setup between sales and brand. What’s your recommendation to get the desired sales outcomes?

First, get everybody aligned to the greater good and not to personal achievement. That’ll go a long way. Structure doesn’t matter. There is no perfect structure; just don’t sabotage yourself.

Second, do not try to invalidate an idea, or hesitate or block trying something new just because it’s not yours to control. That’s bad for the company.

Last, be bold. Try something new. Experiment. That’s why so many brands and retailers have found success with marketing tactics like TikTok Shop. We should always be doing, not just this year but every year.