An Email From The CEO, A Lesson From Jeff Bezos
The following article is a sentiment analysis of a recent email sent to all Amazon employees by Jeff Bezos.
ITs no secret that Amazon has recently been purchasing companies that we all know of, and in some cases (Whole Foods), love. With every acquisition comes a large amount of change, many employees often expect to be fired as the larger company’s staff will be taking over. The current employees and shareholders wonder about the impact on the share price and overall health of the company moving forward… In short, many things can happen, and in a deal as large as this, there are a TON of stakeholders to answer to.
In most cases, the CEO of the acquiring company will be the one to release the initial confirmation message to all employees and stakeholders. With Amazon it is no different, with the purchase of Whole Foods, Jeff Bezos, CEO of Amazon, sent an email to everyone looking at the latest acquisition from within the two organizations.
Let’s take a look at the email piece by piece and break down Jeff’s tone to see what made this email so successful.
I’ll define it successful by the fact that it didn’t completely ruin his reputation and that it confidently informed everyone, which put their minds at ease.
“Today is a significant milestone in the evolution of the Amazon brand. Our offer to purchase Whole Foods will finally consolidate the largest online and off-line retailers where consumers end up spending way more than they intended… Oh well, you know what they say — you can’t log off Amazon without spending $13.7 billion. So true!”
As marketers know, the first part of an email message appears as the preview text and is often the second most important part of an email (2nd to the subject line).
After analyzing the first part I received the following,
Tentative relates to a writer’s degree of inhibition. If the value is higher, the writer is more likely to be perceived as questionable, doubtful, limited, or debatable. With that, there is still a bit of mystery at the beginning and we’re left unsure of Jeff’s intentions behind purchasing Whole Foods. Thankfully, he ends with a joke with solidifies our belief that it wasn’t a mistake after a few drinks.
The first part also reflects a very low emotional charge, meaning that no single emotion is blatantly being elicited through the text. With a low emotional charge, we are still in a state of questioning. Something along the lines of… “I’m not yet sure how I’m feeling about this, so I’ll keep reading.”
Further details about the merger will be forthcoming, but I wanted to call out a few major points before we have to go silent and get this approved by regulators.
All joking aside, Jeff begins to addresses a few details about the possible future of Amazon and Whole Foods. Here is how this transitional snippet is being perceived.
Conscientiousness and agreeableness go great together, one assures the audience that the CEO is being thoughtful about their feelings. This is very important when the readers are in a sensitive state of mind. The latter, helps the CEO seem compassionate to the reader’s situation. Again, being sensitive to the fact that readers are unsure of what is happening, or what is going to happen.
“Our corporate cultures are perfectly aligned. The New York Times revealed that every Amazon employee has cried at their desk… but I think an experience so many of you can relate to.”
After the analysis of the first point, there was one stat that rose above all the rest. The confidence rating.
The confidence ranking is associated with the CEO’s degree of certainty regarding the current topic. A high level of confidence will help the CEO seem more collected and hopeful. This is a fantastic tone to have when beginning to explain the first point. Start off confident and you’ll surely settle the nerves of those reading.
“Improved Echo functionality. Whole Foods has maintained a laser-like focus on organic foods and sustainable facilities and I’m excited to bring that same vision to Echo. Starting next week… Needless to say, those products will not be available for purchase.”
Point 2 consistently delivers good news in a positive way. Though joy is overwhelming, it is important to notice the detected levels of the other emotions. NEXT TO NOTHING! By optimizing for joy the content is being perceived as satisfactory. Joy is a fantastic emotion to elicit in this point because the readers are hoping for positive information.
The joyful message talks about current Amazon products and possible integration with Whole Foods. Hence, the reason for the high rating of analytical tone. The combination of Analytical and Joyful can be summed up by the following, the audience will feel safe about the situation and the CEO is well aware of how to proceed with cross-company integrations.
“Drone changes. All Amazon drone teams will immediately switch to bio-fuels rather than battery packs.”
At this point, you may be able to start guessing what the analysis is going to look like. Take a moment to read the quote above and then guess the tone ranking.
Guess these two? Perfect! Maybe you should consider adding, “Sentiment Analysis Expert” to your LinkedIn.
This short snippet is direct and to the point. It covers an existing project (drones) and makes a direct point that WILL happen, such abruptness about a tech project will instantly settle any fears surrounding the status of the project.
Senior leadership. Once the acquisition is complete, John Mackey will take a new position as Financial Analyst and Social Media Community Outreach for the Washington Post. Synergy!
The sentiment reflected here deserves a deeper explanation. First, it includes, for the first time, the mention of a person from the Whole Foods C-Suite. Because the analysis is looking at the language used in context with John Mackey’s name, the rating is coming off as highly positive. However, this does not mean the readers will feel joyful. This is because the subject (John Mackey) could be viewed as negative in the public eye. The best the CEO can do in this scenario is use very positive language around the subject to increase the chance that positive emotions will be elicited in the audience.
A quick example, the word love has a very high chance of always being rated joyful. The name John Mackey can fluctuate and is not categorized as consistently as the word love.
If John Mackey was viewed as a negative in the public eye, Jeff may have left this part out or written, “the former CEO of Whole Foods will become (job title)”…
“Location changes. Since Whole Foods is headquartered in Austin, Texas, I’ve asked EM to build the first hyperloop route between our offices here in Seattle and the Blue Bubble of Texas. All Amazon/Whole Foods employees will office in Austin for the one week of good weather they have in late February, and in Seattle for the one week of sunshine we have in August (or May… or October… or whenever). The remaining 50 weeks of the year are up to you. Because I believe all Amazon employees should be free to cry at their desk no matter where that desk is located.”
Location change information. This is a very sensitive subject in this type of email. Mainly because some employees may be thinking, “I really don’t want to move to Seattle…”
Jeff’s tone is very important here. Information must be delivered in a positive way and be exact so there is no doubts or questions lingering.
After analysis, we see that Jeff produced a positive and thoughtful message, but failed to deliver exact information to the readers who are concerned with this topic. The high rating of tentativeness leads the audience to be doubtful and seeking further clarity after reading.
“Product expansions. Amazon will soon carry all of the 365-branded products Whole Foods has developed and all Whole Foods stores will be adding aisles for garden equipment, household electronics, sportswear, handbags, pet supplies, golf clubs, video games, plumbing supplies, luggage, headphones, and climbing gear. To start.”
Again, concerning the integration of products we see that Jeff’s tone is coming off as highly analytical and confident.
There seems to be a consistency of no “BS” when it comes to talking about products, projects, and their integration with the newly purchased Whole Foods.
“Cruelty free. We will be adopting Whole Foods policy of only purchasing products that are certified cruelty free. Please note this does not apply to any software we develop ourselves.”
For the first time in this email, we see a high ranking for openness. In my opinion, it couldn’t have come at a better time. Whole Foods truly values cruelty-free in all of its products. By stating that Amazon will adopt this policy, Jeff is being perceived as a thoughtful CEO that is open to new experiences.
In my opinion this is the most important part of Jeff’s first communication with the Whole Foods staff.
I am beyond excited by the possibilities of this merger moving forward and I hope the team feels the same… Now, I need your daily status updates and you aren’t excused for being late from reading this.
The email ends with the highest rating for joy. Ending on a positive note solidifies the entire message of the email. It is a message that ensures new and current employees that everything is going to be okay and there are no reasons to worry about the future.
There are a few constants here that make this email successful. First, the message is predominantly positive, aka Joyful. Though some sections are not overwhelmingly joyful, they do not elicit negative emotions. Second, Jeff is very confident when addressing topics that the audience may be concerned about. Third, Jeff’s tone fluctuates appropriately to match the topic of each section. The best example of this can be seen in part 6 and part 7, Jeff is analytical when talking about products, and completely changes his tone in the next section to openness regarding adopted policies.
To sum it up, if you find yourself writing an email to a workforce of 50,000+ after spending $13.7 billion, be joyful, be confident, and use the proper tone for each subject.
Emotional ranking of the entire email:
Tools and links:
Feel free to reach out if you have thoughts, comments, or concerns — @jefnwk