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December 02, 2010


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WOW I was just asking myself yesterday what other companies have done it the Zappos way because no one can completely duplicate their process because no other company can offer the same service with as much success. Thanks for the many examples.


Excellent post. You're right, there are MANY companies out there experiencing success with social media. And they're NOT all doing exactly the same thing either. There is MUCH to learn in this field, if only we're looking in the right places.


Found this post on Twitter. :)

You made some good points (I'm guilty of talking about Zappos, myself). I also enjoyed the links to the alternative sites that have experienced marketing success.



Great take on this topic...It's been a while since my college days, but I remember the Tylenol crisis being used as a case study for crisis management in my PR class. And I've interviewed at companies recently that stated they wanted to have customer service like Zappos. That's all fine and dandy, but there's so much more out there and I'm glad you shared some examples. Great job.


Thanks for a great post, David. "Go where there is no path and leave a trail" is, I think, the right quote for those who struggle to understand why this should be seriously noted. Be bold, and make something new happen. The sense of achievement if you actually do this is fabulous.

David Meerman Scott

Thanks to all of you for jumping in. I was a tiny bit nervous pushing the button on this post. Glad to see that so many others had the same idea.

Ian - I guess I am dong what you say with this post too.

Carolyn Winter

LOL and I am wondering "what the heck is Zappos?"

David - I have had such a great education about real-time marketing at this blog. It really is about being in the flow of the moment and acting NOW not tomorrow or 3 weeks from now. I remember the Tylenol crisis and being very moved as a consumer by their response as a commpany that cares. But if the same thing happened today I think you are quite right - I would expect instant communication on Twitter/ facebook etc. to get that feel good confidence back.

Matt Ambrose

I've been making the same mistake with Blendtec and their YouTube videos.

some guy

They can't be that good... nobody has heard of them in the UK.

Katie Van Domelen

The underlying problem here is not having enough personal experience to draw from so people fall back on easy to find examples on the web. When I present on social media I try my best to bring in examples that I actually had a part in. What does it matter to my credibility that Zappos is successful? I had nothing to do with it. I admire it, I understand it sure, but I didn't influence it. I like to talk about the clients I've worked with and the success they've had and the things I did to cause it. They might not always be extremely well-known (might be the local folk singer to your Lady Gaga example) but I find it's easy enough to set the stage with a quick background, explain the problem, explain what we did and what the results were (positive and negative and how we adjusted.) And that tells my audience a lot more about the way I think and gives them a lot more insight into how be successful than always trotting out the big names. I find matching the example to the audience is key, if you talk to a big brand about a local restaurant they'll tune out and if you tell a small business about a global brand name they'll feel frustrated. When I don't have a fitting case study in my own background I try to find something new and fresh I can illustrate as an example of my idea rather than just repeating a case study that's been done previously because the point is showing your own thought process, not someone else's. Just my $0.02 - but thanks for the post and the kick in the butt to all of us to get more creative!

Jim Kukral

Exactly. I think the same audiences are getting tired of the social media guy/gal with the "Twitter will save your business" mantra, wearing the tshirt and tennis shoes as well. My opinion of course.

Paul Dunay

Your citing of the Tylenol case never ceases to amaze me too

But the one element that is really remarkable in that case study is the element of TIME - they had HUGE amounts of time in their well crafted responses.

Quite the opposite of Real Time Marketing!

David Meerman Scott

Bravo Katie! Keep up the great work.

That's exactly right Carolyn & Paul. J&J communicated via the nightly news on three networks.Great at the time, but the strategy would #fail today.

Jim - "Marketing is a conversation" is another mantra that needs to be considered before repeated.

Matt - there are others. Comcast pops up a lot too.

David Laurence

I was pleased to hear someone talking after receiving an award for their social media marketing efforts saying "but we still don't get Twitter". Made me feel a little less inadequate.


Yes, David. A great example of it in action!

David Meerman Scott

David - Honesty in action! One of the hallmarks of being social.


Thanks for pointing out that you don't have to be Tony Hsieh to have success in SM and marketing. BTW - two members of my team attended your presentation last week and came back energized and impressed. Sorry I could not be there myself. http://blog.cgsm.com


This is great. A lot of my new clients that are excited are too eager to just grow follower and fan numbers.

They don't realize they don't need to compete on follower numbers of the big boys.

It's always a learning process to get them to understand the value of the relationship quality versus follower count.

Tara 'missrogue' Hunt

Ha. I was actually the first person to talk about Zappos - on stage and then in my book before anyone had heard of them. In fact, Tony credits myself and Thor Muller for getting him onto twitter. (Thor is who told me I should use Zappos as an example in 2007 for a case study on creating amazing customer experiences)

The truth is, though...of the case studies you've listed, none have come close to the success of Zappos. None. Zappos doesn't look at SM as a campaign. It is just part of their very amazing culture that existed BEFORE SM. That's the key. There are very few companies that have that sort of culture. Apple and Google, for instance...they don't really even use social media, but have the same level of love.

David Meerman Scott

Tara -- Congratulations! I'm so glad I know who "broke" the story.

I'm not suggesting that my other examples are of equivalent success.

Rather, I'm saying that Zappos is WAY overexposed and is old news to almost everyone. Therefore the people that continue to talk it up are frequently wasting people's time and making themselves look ignorant. Much like those who talk up Tylenol as a crisis example 30 years later.

You, however, can talk up Zappos any time you want to!!


I fear that most social media experts would throw chairs at me if I suggested they use an example other than Zappos.

They tend to dislike learning new stuff. Heehee.


Bravo, David!

So many outstanding companies to highlight -- as you've shown. The Zappos example is completely trite and useless for companies with different business models and/or audiences.

Magento Themes

congratulation! I thought it was some one else. !


I wrote a couple Zappos inspired blogs after hearing Tony speak and reading his book. Since then I signed on as a Very Happy Person (VHP)to dialogue with others about the mission of their Delivery Happiness Tour to inspire and be inspired by others. Only have good things to say about my time with the Zappos gang and the corporate culture lessons available through their work.

That being said... I 100% support your main point that as thought leaders (and college profs) we need to keep it fresh. Big Kudos to you for not just putting out the call not to get lazy -- but to lead by example in a big way by listing several exemplar companies who are doing things right. This is my first visit to your blog...I'll be back ;)


Great post, David. Great list of social networking successes.

On Tylenol, in my career I've met no less than 20 crisis experts who claim to have been the decision makers and/or counselors on that situation. Enough already! Completely agree. (That said, I will concede that it's tough to find good crisis management case histories. Because when those cases are well handled, they end quietly and without fanfare.)

David Meerman Scott

DrMollieMarti - I think that if you read Tony's book and heard him speak then you can certainly add to the discussion by giving your thoughts based on what Tony says. It's a review of his book & speech with your thoughts which is different than just using Zappos as an example of success.

In other words, I'm fine with people reviewing the Harry Potter books and films but sick of the rags to riches story of JK Rowling as "proof" that you can be a successful author too.

Jamesjdonnelly - Funny - I'd never thought about the idea of people taking credit for the Tylenol thing...

There are some great crisis communications examples from the modern 24x7 world out there. Here's just one. http://bit.ly/a7tHTi

Barbara Bellissimo

One other consequence of talking up a single example:

The company can never live up to the hype.

Our expectations of Zappos are now so high that they will never be able to live up to them. Case in point: If you order gift cards from Zappos, they ship via UPS/Signature Required. Regardless of amount. So someone has to be home to sign for them, or they get redelivered 3x and then sent back, or you need to go pick them up at the UPS depot.

So...let's find a wide range of examples that a wide range of individuals and organizations can relate to. Takes the pressure off us to be just like The One of the Moment, and takes the pressure off The One to be perfect.

David Meerman Scott

Great point Barbara! Same is true of other companies like Apple.


Interestingly leading a workshop here in Ireland yesterday, one of the delegates was mentioned Zappos in the context of customer service.

I agree with your thoughts in terms of needing to reference new case studies. 'Dell Hell' would be another example that comes to mind!

I also think they need to be case studies that are in an 'arms reach' of people so that they can say 'well I could do that' to inspire them to take action.

I do however find that outside of the US perhaps some of these case studies are still not as well known and can be used to inspire - however it depends on the audience that you are speaking with.

Thanks David for the reminder of the previous case studies you have written about and the research you put into each of your own books to share with us new case studies.


I take it you are talking about Brian Tracy's latest book?

One of the examples I HATE hearing about it Fed Ex delivering the bride's dress through the snow or Fed-ex chartering a helicopter to get the package on time to a client. These are all ridiculous examples because FedEx does not give a crap whether the packages arrive on time from my experience!

David Meerman Scott

Krishna - Yes, the Zappos example may not be as overexposed outside the US.

Wallisphoto - NO!! I am NOT talking about anyone in particular. There are literally thousands and thousands or so called experts talking up Zappos. And yes, those FedEx examples pop up a lot too.

C.B. Whittemore

Thanks, David, for all these great suggestions.



Tylenol is not still taught as an example of crisis communication. My example of crisis communication was the BP oil spill. We analyzed techniques to respond to a massive crisis like that.

Jens P. berget

I'm not tired of Zappos just yet. There are so many things to learn from them. But I understand what you're saying.

When it comes to Twitter, I'm looking at what AJ Bombers are doing. They're doing everything right, but they're a small company.

Thanks a lot for the list of other companies to follow.



Love me my Zappos as well but hear ya on keeping it relevant and fresh. Thanks for the B2C shout-out!

Zena Weist
H&R Block
Social Media Director


Just a few months into a new job in Dec 2004, an otherwise amazing flow of a Corporate Communications new-hire orientation came to a crash when the trainer presented the Tylenol case. (at the time, the company's motto was "innovation that matters," with "innovation" being defined as "22-year old case studies."

What was more insane is that the trainer split us up into five groups, then asked each group, "in the same situation that Tylenol faced, what would you do?"

Guess what every group decided? so, by the time she got to my group, #5, I figured I'd add some variety, and replied, "we raised the integrity-bar a bit, and instead of asking 'what would you do?' we asked 'what would Jesus do?"

Turned out to be the first of many times I would hear the term "fire-able offense."

David Meerman Scott

Jens - I'll check out AJ Bombers. I always like new examples.

Zena - Keep up the great work.

Tim - Yikes. I bet that trainer is still teaching Tylenol. Ask them if they drive a Yugo.

Damaris @Kitchen Corners

really great post. now how do I market my blog :)

Jean Kelso Sandlin

David: For crisis management in PR, yes, I still teach the 1982 Tylenol Case, along with many contemporary cases, some as they happen (like Amazon's pedophile book case from three weeks ago). We also watch video clips of Edward Bernays talking about manipulating the masses and then a clip of David Meerman Scott talking about not being afraid to lose control of your message. In this way, students become more aware of the evolution of the field and, in doing so, become more engaged critical thinkers. If we want to educate students beyond what tool to use, and develop critical thinkers who can strategize by gaining an understanding of the evolving culture, political and economic climates, then the past continues to be relevant. (PS I also have them watch Illinois Power vs. 60 Minutes...now that's vintage!)

David Meerman Scott

Jean -- I really appreciate you jumping in regarding the Tylenol case.

I hadn't really thought about it from the perspective of understanding how the discipline has evolved over time. Thanks for opening my eyes to that aspect - I appreciate it.

And thanks for using one of my clips! I'm honored.



It's a great book and very splendid source for entrepreneurs. Thanks for sharing it.


The point is not that Zappos or Tylenol are *representative* case studies; rather, that knowledge of these is *necessary but not sufficient* to demonstrate expertise.

That is, if you claim to be a crisis PR expert but have never heard of the 1982 Tylenol recall case, you are probably not a actually a crisis PR expert. And if you claim to be a social media expert but know nothing about Zappos, you are probably not actually a social media expert.

I wrote about the phenomenon of genuine expertise in my blog last year:


mark allen roberts


Bold post!

I too blogged about Zappos in my post http://tinyurl.com/36gocvv .

I enjoyed the book and found it offered what many leaders are looking for : Proof.

You share a number of other great examples I will also use to illustrate how the “golden rule” consistently out produces other models.

Mark Allen Roberts

David Meerman Scott

Robby - I agree that everyone should be aware of these examples. But that doesn't mean that all "experts" need to teach it.

Mark - Gotta be bold now and then!

Jody Pellerin

I am involved in a Twitter chat under the hashtag #custserv on Tuesday evenings, 8-9 CST. We have a game reminiscent of the Hi Bob drinking game. Anytime Zappos is cited everyone takes a "drink". Unknown if drinks are actually consumed by anyone in the group since it is Twitter, not Skype.

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