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Bad Advertising

Bad Advertising – Zappos

In my occasional Bad Advertising series here on TrafficAndConversion.com, I write about advertising and marketing that strikes me as misguided, wasteful, or just plain wrong. In the past, I’ve railed against a local shopping mall store which totally mis-spent its advertising. That beauty shop, which had advertising posted in the men’s room at the mall, […]

In my occasional Bad Advertising series here on TrafficAndConversion.com, I write about advertising and marketing that strikes me as misguided, wasteful, or just plain wrong.

In the past, I’ve railed against a local shopping mall store which totally mis-spent its advertising. That beauty shop, which had advertising posted in the men’s room at the mall, among other places, is now gone.

I’ve written about Ford’s "Drive One" campaign — not because of the slogan, but because they are committed to the campaign for 5 years because they wouldn’t be able to measure results any quicker. Ford, along with the other big US Automakers, is now begging Washington for a bailout.

Today’s message is not about a company that’s destined to fail…it’s about a company that is doing very well, but just missing a valuable opportunity to sell into a very active, and mostly affluent crowd.

I recently flew to Malaysia and Singapore to speak at Simon Leung and Stuart Tan’s "The Smart Seminar" events. Asia was an amazing experience — and a place I never thought I’d have occasion to visit.

At Los Angeles International Airport, I was in line at the security checkpoint when I saw the trays where you have to unload all of your personal belongings — wallet, keys, cell phone, laptop, coat, shoes…and once again saw something that I’ve always thought was a missed opportunity.

Take a look at the photo.

Zappos tray at airportIt happens to be from a prior trip through LAX, but is nearly the same as what I saw a few weeks ago. It’s the bottom of the tray, and there’s a Zappos ad there. Zappos is the internet’s largest shoe store. They have 1300 employees, and in 2007 they sold over $840 million of merchandise. This year, they’ll break a billion.

That’s a lot of shoes.

And I’m sure they’ve paid a LOT of money on the advertising in these trays all over the country.

So why am I picking on Zappos?

It goes back to my core belief that "Knowing your Customer" is the single most important part of marketing — on the Internet or off. In a moment, I’m going to put your into the head of the person who, like me, was at the airport, and just picked up one of these bins.

But first, a little history.

September 11, 2001 was a horrible day in History. We all know why. Three months later, on December 22, a man named Richard Reid got on American Airlines flight 63 from Paris to Miami with plastic explosives in his shoes. He was caught by a flight attendant trying to light the fuse. Luckily, he failed.

And since then, almost all air travelers — and in particular those in the USA — have had to remove their shoes so they can be X-rayed prior to boarding a commercial airplane.

So now imagine for a moment that you’re in line at your local commercial airport, about to go through Security. You take off your shoes, then pick up a bin and see the Zappos ad.

Okay, "Put a little Zappos in your day." Cute slogan, maybe. But very forgettable. And it’s all about THEM, and not ME.

As a traveler, what do YOU care about, at this very moment?

Well, it’s odd, but before they leave for the airport, most people still don’t think about this hassle of taking their shoes off and having to put them back on again, and so they show up wearing sneakers or boots or dress shoes or other shoes with laces. Or maybe metal inside. Or some kind of liquid or gel.

Unknown items built into your shoes can get you pulled aside. Laces are a pain to tie and untie, and delay your journey through the TSA checkpoint.

So what does "Put a little Zappos in your day" say to you, as a traveler? What benefit do YOU get from this ad? What benefit does Zappos get from this ad?

NOTHING, except "Zappos sells shoes."

But to me, the message is "missed opportunity" because what Zappos should be doing here is tapping into the conversation that is going on in the traveler’s mind at this very moment.

"I wish I didn’t have to do this."
"I shoulda worn shoes without laces."
"Damn, this is a PAIN in the ass!"

And, even worse, if someone gets pulled aside for a special questioning because there is metal or something else built into their shoes that arouses the curiosity of the TSA…

"Uh Oh!"

What Zappos should have done is to promote their selection of ‘airport-safe shoes’ — shoes designed to pass through airport security without a problem. Even better, would be to advertise a line of lace-less airport-safe shoes to speed you through security.

There’s actually a page on the Zappos website that talks about Airport-safe shoes…but it’s hard to find. As of this writing, there’s not even link on the Zappos home page to this page, and it doesn’t come up first…or even on the first page…if you search Google for "zappos airport safe shoes."

Here’s the point.

One Hundred Percent of the people who see these ads need to pass through airport security, yet Zappos totally forgets that fact, and simply tries to sell their shoes in this situation as in any other.

"Buy my shoes."
"Put a little Zappos in your day."

So what’s the point of all this? Well, my question to you is…

  • Do you get into the head of your customer better than Zappos does theirs?
  • Do you actually know what your customer is thinking when he or she sees your ad?
  • Does your marketing take into account your customer’s situation and state of mind?

My guess is that you’ve got less disposable income than Zappos does. So if the answer to any of these questions is "No," I’d like to suggest that you FIX this problem NOW.

Your business depends on it — especially as we roll into this challenging holiday season.

What do YOU think? Leave your comment below.

To your Success,

–Mark Widawer

…One more thing…If you know you need help to better know your customer, I’ve got a resource that can help you know your customer better by getting deep inside his or her head. Go now to http://www.ProspectXray.com to figure out what REALLY makes your customers buy.