One of The Best Brands of the Last Decade: Zappos! By Branding Expert Libby Gill

At its core, every business – and career – is about providing value to others, whether that’s to internal corporate colleagues, customers or clients. At its core, branding is all about providing the value that you state, every day, that separates you from the competition – and the noise.  Your brand is more than that though – it’s how you do what you do and how you effect others. Tony Hsieh, CEO of online shoe giant, contends that Zappos isn’t really in the shoe business.  He says they’re in the customer service business and just happen to sell shoes.  He wasn’t always sold on the concept, however.  When he first received a voicemail from a young entrepreneur pitching the idea, Tony nearly deleted it.  As far as he was concerned, selling shoes online sounded like “the poster child of bad Internet ideas.”  Until he learned that, even back then, the shoe biz was a $40 billion industry and five percent of sales were already being done through mail order catalogues.  Now, after nearly a decade in business and a billion dollars in gross merchandising sales, Tony’s changed his tune.

When I was writing You Unstuck, I asked Tony what made Zappos so successful in such a short period of time.  (Incidentally, he sold his first company to Microsoft for $265 million at the tender age of 24, so he knows a thing or two about success.)  Tony told me that he and his team had put a great deal of emphasis on “getting the culture right.”  If they established the right kind of corporate culture, he was convinced that everything else would fall into place.

That “everything else” included creating what the Zappos crew now calls “delivering a WOW through service.”  (Talk about branding, eh?)  It takes a lot of work to get to wow, however, including strategic hiring practices, top-notch training systems and a foundation of meaningful core values.  According to Tony, developing a list of core values against which performance, skills and attitude could be actively assessed has been critical in building both the business and the culture of Zappos. Although creating corporate values statements often means give lip-service to lofty goals barely fit for a wall plaque, Tony’s team determined that Zappos’ values would be simple, useful and authentic.  See how well they did below:

The Ten Core Values of

  1. Deliver WOW through service
  2. Embrace and drive change
  3. Create fun and a little weirdness
  4. Be adventurous, creative and open-minded
  5. Pursue growth and learning
  6. Build open and honest relationships with communication
  7. Build a positive team and family spirit
  8. Do more with less
  9. Be passionate and determined
  10. Be humble

One of the most interesting things about the Zappos list of core values, besides the fact that it is totally devoid of corporate-speak, is how relevant it is in determining and sustaining basic priorities and building their brand from the inside out.  Those values enter into practically every daily activity that happens within the organization from handling sales calls to recruiting new hires.

Libby Gill, Branding Expert, Bestselling Author, and Keynote Speaker

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