Jeff Bezos’ divorce: The art of controlling the narrative

Jeff Bezos just announced his divorce on Twitter. But, unlike Elon Musk, his control of the narrative is smart, and leaves no room for misinterpretation.



Jeff Bezos, the king of the Amazon, published a surprise announcement on Twitter recently, alerting the world to the fact that he and his wife of 25 years, are divorcing. “As our family and close friends know, after a long period of loving exploration and trial separation, we’ve decided to divorce and continue our shared lives as friends,” the couple wrote in a note.

The tweet instantly went viral (and triggered news pieces, like this), it’s extremely unlikely that we’ll be discussing this tomorrow – which is exactly their point.

As CEO of a company currently values higher than any other on the planet ($810 billion), Bezos had to control the narrative immediately. To deal in colloquialisms, he couldn’t do an Elon Musk, allowing his personal life damage his professional one. It matters because modern investors have no stomach for unstable industry leaders. So Bezos tweeted out a statement that was everything a bizarre Elon Musk tweet is not: level-headed, carefully worded, and reassuring in its repetitiveness.

Bezos kept the message absolutely uninteresting. It was delivered it straight to the public, sans press release (or a newspaper, including the one he owns). This is a perfect example of controlling the story in a time where saturation (and twisting) of information is part of the landscape.



However, there are many ways to skin a scandal. 2013 saw the daughter of New York’s Mayor, addressed her history of drug abuse in the public eye. Media columnist Michael Wolff called it “narrative control, one with a millennial spin”, involving a piece-to-camera, a testimony on Instagram and a reality-tv tone. As Wolff noted at the time, “…the up-to-date marketing view is that brands must become publishers, or storytellers, themselves—the most important thing they’re selling is, in fact, narrative,” he wrote. “It’s another step on a road that we’ve been on for a long time. Functionality, actual products and division of labour give way to a much more disembodied sense of reality, wherein we create and sell effective fiction.”

It seems to have worked. The majority of responses seem to be positive. “Your divorce sounds better than most people’s marriages,” was one comment expressed a few different ways. Some people mused about how the money will be divided, of course, and others made predictable jokes about proceeding with the legal work through Amazon’s AI assistant Alexa, and asking Alexa to play “Thank U, Next.”


With that being said, Jeff’s play seems to be the right one, as Amazon shares were up $1.23 in today’s trading.

Business as usual, then.


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