Retail

If You Can’t Sell On A Retail Holiday, Invent One

There’s not a lot of money in marketing around a “holiday” that only occurs a couple times per decade.

Or is there?

If you went all day yesterday (Feb. 29) without realizing that it was Leap Day, you can’t really be faulted. Unique primarily in its infrequency with relation to the solar calendar, Feb. 29 usually comes and goes every four years without much fanfare. It’s not a federal holiday, and, accordingly, save for a few lightly promoted sales, the retail industry tends not to count on regular business associated with it. It’s not Christmas, after all. Heck, it’s not even Flag Day.

Interestingly, one retailer in particular — Zappos, the online shoe and clothing store that, since 2009, has been a subsidiary of Amazon — this year took the very fact that Leap Day is not a nationally recognized holiday as a springboard to drum up a little attention for its own brand.

Did the company push out a number of discounts on shoes that offer keen jumping ability?

No. Zappos didn’t promote any single products at all yesterday, because it was effectively closed.

As Adweek reported during the run-up to Feb. 29, the online footwear-focused retailer gave all of its 1,600 employees a paid day off yesterday, including those who staff its call center, which is otherwise in operation 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

Ostensibly, Zappos’ benevolent move was designed to gather support for a petition, hosted on Change.org, to make Leap Day a federal holiday. On its page promoting the affiliated #TakeTheLeap social media campaign, Zappos shares genuinely high-minded reasons for why the occasional extra day of the year should be a paid day off for every U.S. citizen — the time could be spent volunteering for a nonprofit, for example — and we are not here to doubt the company’s sincerity in that regard.

At the same time, though, one can’t help but notice that a company making hay of the fact that it is closed for business (or at least as “closed” as an eCommerce retailer can be) on a particular day of the year, while its competitors remain open, is a pretty effective and unique way to — even inadvertently (but likely not at all inadvertently, in this case) — sell itself, while not truly “selling” anything in particular at that point in time.

To those whom such a perspective might seem cynical, please note the following quote (delivered to Adweek):

“We’re big proponents of our culture that encourages out-of-the-box thinking and bold stunts. So, celebrating Leap Day in a big way simply makes sense for us as a brand, while maybe not so much for other brands. We want to give that day back to the people. It should be used as a bonus day to do good — for your community, your family or yourself.”

Those are the words of Kristin Richmer, a brand awareness employee of Zappos.

Despite her very job title perhaps giving away the goose, as it were, one must credit Richmer with hitting the aforementioned legitimately virtuous talking points related to the potential of Leap Day being a federal paid holiday, while also getting a casual dig in at Zappos’ competitors in general.

We’re not here to throw shade, only to highlight Zappos’ efforts yesterday as illustrative of how, in the consumer-facing industry of retail, pretty much anything is fair game when it comes to getting a leg-up on the competition, including using holidays that actually are not holidays as a means for a brand to differentiate itself.

Now that the most recent Leap Day has come and gone, not to return again until 2020, and Zappos employees are all back at work, it remains to be seen what kind of a boost in traffic and sales the brand might enjoy as a result of associating itself with a non-monetized awareness campaign. It’s fair to assume, though, that — simply by virtue of the fact that Zappos took the “stand” that it did — more consumers were thinking about the brand yesterday than they would have been had it been business as usual.

As Tyler Williams of Zappos’ brand Aura told Footwear News: “One of Zappos’ core values is to embrace and drive change. We believe this extra day will give employees the chance to live that value by doing something they’ve always wanted to do and hope to inspire others to do the same.”

With the unspoken part being something like: And then, maybe, if they have a free minute afterward, check out some deals at Zappos.com or whatever.

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