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Twitter, Zappos, and the science of happiness

Twitter, Zappos, and the science of happiness Rynda Laurel

Is Disneyland still the happiest place on earth? Maybe not.

Enter Zappos.com -- a perfect mashup of Virgin branding, early Nordstom customer service policy, and Deepak Chopra ideals wrapped up into a box and shipped to your home (shipped for free of course). The customer is happy, employees are happy, and most of all, Tony Hsieh, CEO of Zappos.com, is ecstatic. Not only did the online clothing e-tailer rake in a cool billion dollars last year, but Hsieh invested in his business even further with what he calls the "Science of Happiness." This makes him happy on a whole new level.

In his keynote address at South by Southwest Interactive (SXSWi) this week, Hsieh championed the "Science of Happiness" as the secret sauce of Zappos' success, and a main theme that encompasses his entire business philosophy.

So how does Hsieh explain the way Zappos is marrying financial success with the elusive concept of happiness? And how can other marketers incorporate "happiness" into their campaigns and business models? Hsieh feels that, arguably, the first step is to find out what it is that will make you, and your customers, happy. In his presentation, Hsieh asked the audience to take a step back and think about their goals in life. He asserted that most people are bad at predicting what will make them happy, so they need to start thinking about it in terms of four frameworks: perceived control, perceived progress, connectedness, and vision and meaning.

For Hsieh, happiness in Zappos' business comes from its vision of owning the three Cs: culture, clothing, and customer service. Already, Zappos is taking control of public perception of the digital commerce model, and making progress in defining just what quality service means in the digital age. Which leaves one key element…

140 characters to happiness
When it comes to connectedness, there are few digital platforms that have been more embraced than Zappos use of Twitter, the pervasive short-messaging service that is reinventing the way consumers and marketers express what's on their minds -- and in their corporate plans. It's certainly affected the way SXSWi conversations are spreading. While listening to Hsieh's presentation, it was apparent that in addition to the usual notetakers, there was a flurry of tweeting going on. See for yourself:

Twitter: jongos: Getting ready for Tony Hsieh's Opening remarks. #zappos #sxswi
Twitter: thesaulter: CEO at Zappos started as a pizza maker in college...awesome. #sxsw #zappos
Twitter: dg: funny...I never heard of zappos before I got on twitter and I haven't bought anything from them yet #zappos #sxsw

So if the Science of Happiness is helping Zappos find its moral and business compass, and technology like Twitter is helping it to service its customers, how does Hsieh view the marketing process?

Customer service as a marketing tool
It should be obvious that customer service should be a number one priority, but Zappos takes customer service to an extreme, delivering "WOW" through service. Moreover, they have the revenue and return customer to show that it works. In the Zappos world, you can order shoes, or a wallet, or a dress, in multiple sizes and colors, and you can return any of them within 365 days, with free shipping both ways. Oh, and if you have a little problem, just ring customer service and they will take care of you -- always. Does this make customers happy? Yes. Will they buy again? Yes. Will they tell your friends? Absolutely. Again, see for yourself:

Twitter: ZackTeibloom: #sxsw #zappos customer service customer service customer service customer service customer service customer
Twitter: KimMoldofsky: RT @amykchulik Great point: "Everything that improves the customer experience is really a marketing expense." #sxsw #zappos
Twitter: Jackiehuba: Zappos views $ that goes into improving customer experience as marketing $ #sxsw
Twitter: jodyg: "People may not remember what you said or did, but they will always remember how you made them feel." **Tony Hsieh - Zappos #sxsw
Twitter: ralftgehrig: Embarassing: didn't even know #zappos but they are an amazing customer experience brand.

Are you happy now?
Every day we hear about CEOs of major corporations taking bailout money and flying around on their corporate jets. We hear about them stealing from their employees and their customers. It is refreshing to hear a CEO discuss his company with excitement and commitment to the customer and the employee. And just as refreshing to see ideas like his catching on with the marketing Twitterati.

Twitter: joemescher: #sxsw, #zappos, #Austin, and Tony Hsieh are all top trends on twitter today (social media mavens unite!).
Twitter: jwphillips: Keynote winding down. Fantastic preso. Tony Hsieh is the man, and seriously knows how to run a company the right way. I dig. #sxsw #zappos
Twitter: sxswguide: btw, #zappos keynote was amazing. I like that happiness is explicitly a focus for values and culture sxsw (@mjpizz)

Zappos is walking the path of happiness right to the bank, and it all started with one step -- in a shoe, in the right size.

Rynda Laurel is the owner of 1968media.

Rynda Laurel has an extensive background in the music, entertainment, brand, and online space. She has helped expand and monetize numerous careers, companies, and ventures by focusing on the core strengths of a project then generating new...

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to leave comments.

Commenter: Adam Broitman

2009, March 18

Great article Rynda!

I agree that customer service can be the best marketing a company can get, and in this time of corporate mayhem (as you mentioned) it is nice to see a CEO placing so much emphasis on doing the right thing.