Zappos solidifies brand message with Leap Day

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Trying to make Leap Day into a federal  holiday, Zappos’ closing its call center could have backfired. But it worked because it was strangely on brand.

Yesterday was February 29, a very special day added due to the Gregorian calendar’s disparity with the solar system. Zappos is moving to make Leap Day even more special by having it recognized as a real holiday.

Zappos encouraged people – starting with its employees – to use this bonus day to do something they’ve always wanted to do, or #TakeTheLeap. All “Zapponians” were given a paid day off yesterday, including those in the 24/7 call center.

“We thought, why don’t we set the example to let our employees do something amazing with their extra day?” says Tyler Williams of Zappos Brand Aura, adding that the company petitioned the government to make Leap Day a federal holiday. “But it’s not just about making it a national holiday; it can mean something bigger: people getting out on that day, conquering a fear, doing something they’ve always wanted to do.

The Change.org petition has only reached about a quarter of its goal, but it’s still been signed by more than 23,000 people. And as Williams points out, there are still three years, 11 months and 28 days to go until the next Leap Day.

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Zappos is a company whose customer service is held in extremely high regard. Could closing the call center for 24 hours, something that’s never been done before, tarnish that reputation and result in backlash for the brand? Not according to Williams.

“When customers called on February 29, they heard an inspirational message encouraging them to celebrate Leap Day, letting them know we’ll be available for them again, around the clock, today,” he says. “We believe a whole lot of good can be done with one extra day, and we led by example by giving all our employees a paid day off.”

In an odd way, closing down the call center was on brand for Zappos. The inspirational message on the phone contributed to the company’s customer service, rather than taking away from it. The underlying message was, “We’re closed right now, but that’s just because we care about you.”

This isn’t the first time a brand has tried to transition from a hashtag to a holiday. Over the summer, Amazon launched Prime Day, the company’s attempt to create a new online shopping extravaganza. And then outdoor retailer REI famously boycotted Black Friday, encouraging everyone to #OptOutside instead of shopping.

While Prime Day fell flat, REI generated a lot of buzz. The most obvious difference between the two strategies is how one was totally self-serving, while the other was more subtly so. If you’re going to do something outdoorsy, you could probably use REI equipment, whereas “celebrating” Prime Day only means shopping on Amazon.

#TakeTheLeap followed more in REI’s footsteps, despite the fact that Amazon is Zappos’ parent company. The Leap Day movement doesn’t benefit Zappos in an obvious way; the call center wasn’t even open.

But because it tied in with the retailer’s overall branding, Matt Bijarchi, founder and chief executive (CEO) of blend, gives Zappos “an A+” for its strategy. He points out that the company has nothing to lose by pursuing this.

“What better experience to offer your consumers than starting a movement that gets them an extra day off of work?” he asks. “If the movement doesn’t convert, at the least, they are earning yet more goodwill from their consumers.

Most of us thought, ‘Wow, that’s a cool, fresh idea I haven’t heard before’ and everyone knows to associate it directly with Zappos.”

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