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Zappos vs. Kanye: How To Deflect Brand Criticism With Humor

What do you do when someone with huge influence criticizes your brand publicly? Hold several strategy meetings, issue a statement and hope for the spotlight to pass?

If you’re brave, there are alternatives to this traditional approach – including this epic “mic drop” by retailer Zappos.

Earlier this week, rapper Kanye West took a break from criticizing Taylor Swift and President Obama and took aim at Zappos, claiming they sell a (insert four letter word) product.

Product Rather than issue a boring, cookie cutter statement about their brand’s philosophy, Zappos created and tweeted a brand-new product page, just for the “Watch The Throne” rapper.

Interested in buying s— product?” the page asks.

You’ve come to the right place! Here at, we happily sell s— products to everybody! This is the throne, everyone has been watching. Whether you’re #1 or #2, your clique will show no mercy, even in Paris. 

Yeah, Kanye, don’t come for Zappos unless they send for you.

This approach isn’t right for every brand, but it’s a lesson in real-time PR for every marketer. Here are three takeaways:

1. Be Prepared to Sieze the Moment

The art of real-time marketing is making sure you’re always ready.  You can’t predict natural disasters or Kanye West, but you know your brand personality enough to have an approach prepared when criticism strikers.

Are you snarky, sarcastic or funny? By knowing the answer to those questions before something hits the fan, you save time going back and forth with decision makers and can focus on crafting your response.

2. Be Authentic to Your Brand

Zappos is a fun brand that holds a warm fuzzy spot in the hearts of millions of customers. Their cheeky, human response embodied the culture of the company, and reflects the reaction that many of their customers might have if someone attacked them out the blue.

This authenticity energized their fan base to the point of causing a stir in the media.

How would your brand respond authentically to criticism?


3. Be Different to Break Out of the Box

Okay, be honest.  After reading about this incident, how many times have you checked out the Zappos website?

By breaking the mold (and being timely in their response) Zappos turned the conversation around and generated huge buzz on both social and traditional media.  If their response had been hum-drum, would anyone be talking about this today?

How will you respond if Kanye calls your product less than great?

For more from Adrienne, click here. 

About Adrienne Sheares

Adrienne Sheares is an enthusiast for all things social media. On the rare times she’s not on social media, she loves watching any cooking show and frequently pretends she’s a “Top Chef” contestant in her kitchen. You can find her on Twitter at @SocialMediaDC.

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