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Google Banished From Alexa’s Brain; Amazon Leapfrogs Apple

Also: You’ll never guess which brand is the world’s most valuable

You’ll Never Guess Which Brand Is The World’s Most Valuable

Prime Cut: OK, maybe you can. According to the folks at Brand Finance, an independent brand valuation and strategy consultancy, Amazon, the once-struggling bookseller, saw its brand value grow by 42 percent last year to a whopping $151 billion, wresting first place from Google and leapfrogging No. 2 Apple on its annual Global 500 ranking.

TWICE TAKE: The company considers brand value the “net economic benefit” that a business would achieve by licensing its name. Interestingly, technology brands occupy the top five slots for the first time since the study’s inception, with Samsung placing fourth and Facebook coming in fifth, prompting Brand Finance to proclaim “the dawn of the digital era for brands.”

See the full report at Brand Finance.

Amazon Vs. Walmart: Who’s Got The Lowest Prices?

Prime Cut: Despite Amazon’s reputation for having the best deals — driven by around-the-clock web crawlers and arcane algorithms that provide on-the-fly price adjustments — the e-tailer was edged out by its chief brick-and-mortar competitor in a recent price-point comparison analysis.

TWICE Take: Student financing site LendEDU priced a basket of 50 identical items across five categories at Amazon and Walmart, including consumer tech and countertop appliances. The result? Walmart’s in-store retails proved to be 10.4 percent lower on average than those of its online rival, challenging the difference between perception and reality.

See the full story at TWICE.

Google Banished From Alexa’s Brain

Prime Cut: With some 30,000 voice commands (sorry Jeff, skills) now at her disposal, Amazon has created an extraordinarily open development platform for Alexa, its pervasive digital assistant. Apparently, however, there is one term that will never cross her lips: Google.

TWICE Take: According to game developer Jo Jaquita, his Mind Maze skill made the mistake of including a reference to Amazon’s archrival, and was promptly rejected. The stated reason: “The skill should not promote Google Home.” Amazon has since addressed the rebuff, which it attributed to creating “customer confusion,” and denied banning “the usage of brand names.” Uh-huh.

See the full story at Tech Crunch.

Amazon Video: Studio Stiffing The Woodman?

Prime Cut: Woody Allen’s final cut could be a forced separation from Amazon Studios. According to published reports, the e-tailer’s entertainment division is considering a sizeable payout to end its five-picture deal with the too-hot-to-handle director.

TWICE Take: Allen, like many in Hollywood, has been implicated in the #MeToo movement. Having first lost his Amazon ally, ex-studio head Roy Price, who resigned amid sexual harassment allegations, he now faces renewed scrutiny for longstanding molestation claims by daughter Dylan Farrow, and has been called out by the stars of his current Amazon film, “Rainy Day.” Morality or even possible criminality aside, the blowback is hurting Amazon where it hurts the most: its bottom line. His first film for the studio, “Wonder Wheel,” cost $25 million to make but brought in just $1.4 million in North American box office receipts since its December release.

See the full story at The Mercury News.

Bezos ‘Doubling Down’ On Alexa After Astounding Q4

Prime Cut: We’re not quite sure what that entails for Amazon’s virtual assistant specifically, but we’ll allow CEO Jeff Bezos his fourth-quarter pronouncements given his year-to-date accomplishments: cementing his standing as the world’s richest man (stock market plunge notwithstanding); adding the equivalent of McDonald’s market cap to Amazon’s valuation (again, stock market volatility notwithstanding); and demonstrating his acting chops in Sunday’s Super Bowl Alexa ad.

TWICE Take: But the underlying accomplishment was the company’s holiday-period performance, which blew past analyst estimates to hit $1.9 billion in profits, a 148 percent increase, while net sales soared 38 percent, to $60.5 billion. Yet Bezos, in a prepared statement, focused instead on Alexa, suggesting that the AI platform had reached an inflection point, with adoption by developers and outside companies accelerating. “We don’t see positive surprises of this magnitude very often,” the founder noted. “Much more to come.”

See the full story at TWICE.

Amazon Quote Of The Week

“Jeff Bezos once said that ‘brands are more important online than they are in the physical world.’ He has proved himself right by choosing the name Amazon, known as the largest, most powerful river in the world … All evidence suggests that the amazing Amazon brand is going to continue growing indefinitely and exponentially.” – Brand Finance CEO David Haigh, on Amazon topping the Global 500