Ex-Amazon executive’s book explores company’s growth, success

Ashton Nichols The Columbus Dispatch (TNS)

Steve Susi has always been interested in changing communication technology. When he went to work for Amazon, he hit the jackpot.

He left his position as executive creative director at Amazon in 2018 and decided to write a book about what he had learned about the company’s success. Brand Currency: A Former Amazon Exec on Money, Information, Loyalty, and Time, came out April 19.

Susi, a Worthington native, said Columbus is a relatively unnoticed technology pioneer. For example, CompuServe, a software company, was founded in Columbus in 1969.

Of course, times have changed since then.

“The brandscape is changing, and Amazon has a lot to do with that,” he said. “It comes down to the employees, and there is a way to future-proof yourself.”

Susi, 47, described his book as “fun with pockets of gravity,” focused on the four main pillars of Amazon: money, information, loyalty and time.

“If you can save those things for your customer, you’re going to win as a brand,” Susi said. “I think this book has a relevant theme for the brands that today are asking how they will compete with the Amazons of the world.”

The success of Amazon relies on data and goals, Susi said. Everything is data-driven and customer-focused.

“It comes down to the individual who has aggressive goals, the program if you’re a manager, and it’s all wrapped in data,” Susi said.

The author said he’s been “hooked on writing” since he was a kid.

“I used to go home in the summers and I would take my older brother’s tape recorder and I would write radio ads for anything,” Susi said. “I would make up products and just write radio ads and play them to my family.”

He then went to Miami University to study mass communication with a concentration in advertising and video production. His minor was in creative writing.

In 1993, he graduated and came back to Columbus to find an empty job market. For two years, he worked at The Baggery, a luggage store, and wrote poems about luggage for his coworkers.

Susi got his advertising start in 1995 as a junior copywriter at a small independent advertising agency called Young Isaac. There he learned web development. He said it liked it, but moved on because he wanted to live in New York.

“In 1996, I came to New York with no friends, no jobs, no contacts and I slept on (a friend of a friend’s) floor for $500 a month under the assumption that I would someday break through,” Susi said. “It started to get dicey.”

Eventually, he began freelance ad writing for The New York Times. After that, companies such as Adidas, Gucci and Cadillac became his first big clients. When he was interviewing for jobs, he said he was asked about the digital side of advertising.

“I was in love with the early web,” Susi said. “The agencies didn’t care about the traditional portfolio, they cared about the digital.”

In 2012, an Amazon recruiter reached out to him to start the Amazon advertising New York City office. He soon moved to London and became executive creative director for all of Amazon outside the United States.

After two years, Susi said it was time for him to move back to New York. He was delivering a presentation in Tokyo in 2018, and said he felt compelled to deliver his story to the mainstream.

“I said, “You know what? I’m going to write a book. People are dying to know how this company is doing what it’s doing,” Susi said. “Amazon from the outside doesn’t make sense.”

Susi said that he recommends that people read about a company to find success in creating their path in life.

“If you can express and articulate the need or objective better than anybody else, if people can understand you quickly, you’ll win,” Susi said.


Ashton Nichols The Columbus Dispatch (TNS)

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