It’s no secret that the Wednesday before Thanksgiving is one of the busiest—and most stressful—travel days of the year, as millions of Americans take to the air and roads for the holiday. But for Zappos, the harried commute was the perfect opportunity to put its “Deliver Happiness” mantra into action, turning a baggage claim carousel at George Bush Intercontinental Airport in Houston into a Wheel of Fortune-type game: Zappos-branded roulette slots designated different prizes, including gift certificates, The North Face jackets, Jansport backpacks, Ugg boots and Kitchen Aid mixers. Lucky travelers on seven different American Airlines flights won whatever their suitcases landed on.
Boston ad agency Mullen dreamed up the game, which allowed the e-tailer to inject fun and, as Zappos Manager of Brand Communications Catherine Cook puts it, “a little weirdness” into a typically anxiety-inducing day for passengers. Improv actors and Zappos crew were on hand to verify winnings, with at least one dressed like a turkey. “We are constantly looking for ways to deliver the ‘wow’ factor, whether it’s to our customers who are already shopping the site or to the communities in which they live,” Cook says. “We are also strong believers in word-of-mouth marketing. If someone won a prize on the baggage belt, there’s a good chance they shared the good news at their Thanksgiving dinner.”
Zappos chose to hold the event in Houston because the city represents one of its largest customer markets, Cook says, and the game allowed the company to show its appreciation to the community. “We believe that reaching customers at unexpected times, like the busiest travel day of the year, gives us the opportunity to spread the most joy,” she says. “We saw travelers who left the baggage claim a little happier than when they arrived, which was all we wanted.”
In 2012 Zappos decided to pay some drivers’ tolls on Thanksgiving Eve in Massachusetts, and Cook says the e-tailer plans to continue its tradition of surprise next year. “The question in our minds is, what will we think of next and where will it take us?”