28 Jan 2013

Why Corporate Culture Matters

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I was reminded again this weekend why corporate culture is so important to branding and reputation management in the digital age.

While searching for a pair of snowboard boots, I was cruising through many of the big shoe retailers.  Zappos, for instance, had what appeared to be a good boot, but their listing had no reviews.

Now, I am a big believer in a) customer reviews and b) Zappos.  Zappos is legendary for their laid-back corporate culture, free-wheeling social media accounts, and innovative tools like their real-time map of product sales (http://map.apps.zappos.com).

The lack of reviews, however, sent me to a site I had never before used – evo.com.  It was the first result to pop up when I Googled for reviews of this particular boot.  On landing on the page, I was immediately impressed.

Screen Shot 2013-01-28 at 10.09.36 AM

Most retailers have out-of-stock notifications, but very few that I have seen have this much fun with something so mundane.  The “message” left by the last purchaser is a clip from Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory withGene Wilder yelling “You get nothing! You Lose! Good day, sir!”

In many corporate environments, someone would suggest a system message like that would a) be offensive to some customers, b) likely skirt copyright laws governing the video, and c) not do anything for the bottom line.

All of these arguments are wrong.  I’ll tackle them one at a time.

First, the number of people likely to be put off by such an approach is small, but in the case of sporting good retailers, it’s likely infinitesimal. Sport culture is rife with such ribbing.  This is a retailer that knows their audience.

Second, the video clip displayed is nine seconds out of a two hour movie.  While attempts to strengthen intellectual property laws have recently reached new extremes, current law would likely favor this as fair use.  Evo has also gotten provided a tongue-in-cheek disclaimer to accompany the video.

Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this video are those of the last customer to buy this item and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of any evo employee or of evo itself or of any of its affiliates, subsidiaries, contractors, friends, mascots, pets or acquaintances.

Finally, their unique approach to a simple out-of-stock message has resulted in me posting a link to Facebook, putting it in front of all my friends, writing a blog post about the company, and likely buying a pair of boots from them (I’m still shopping).

So I would say the free advertising, recognition, and sales that simple message created are well worth the cleverness.

Companies need to understand – especially with regard to the Internet – that you can present serious content but do it in an engaging way.

Evo appears to be a company that allows its corporate culture to show through, and has some fun with it.  Many companies could stand to steal a page from that playbook.

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