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Zappos – did PR win over social media openess? Does it matter? July 27, 2009

Posted by Joanna Geary in Discussion Points.
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The announcement that Amazon had bought shoe business Zappos in a cash and share deal worth $800 million, has left Adam Kleinberg, CEO of US creative firm Traction, spitting feathers.

Over the past few years Zappos has been building an enviable reputation as a company the knows how to use the web to build brand and a swathe of loyal customers. So much so, it has even launched its own subscription video service – Zappos Insights – to share its secrets… for a price.

It also recently launch a request for proposal (RFP) to agencies over Twitter.

It is the latter that Adam labels a pure “PR stunt” in a post on his imedia connection blog, claiming it was an exploitative move  aimed at impressing suitor Amazon.

From where I sit, Zappos greedily took advantage of agencies’ desperation to show Amazon why the should pay a premium for an online brand who just had to lay off 8% of their workforce. Seems to have worked.

Was it greedy to undertake the RFP publicly over a social network? Was it a PR move? Does it really matter if it was?

One of the main reasons that brands might look to use the web to become more transparent is, surely, to build trust between them and potential customers? If that is not in the realm of public relations, then what is?



1. Adam Kleinberg - February 18, 2010

Pthh (sorry, feathers).

Shouldn’t it also build trust between them and potential partners?

I saw Zappos CEO Tony Hseih speak a few months after I wrote that post and he talked about how his company’s most important task was exceeding the expectations of his employees. While I’m not naive enough to suggest that an agency is akin to an employee, to be effective, they need to work in close partnership with a brand.

To start a relationship by treating a potential close partner abusively in a public forum, is disingenuous and a recipe for an unsuccessful relationship.

My two cents, anyway.

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