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Genius guerrilla marketing campaign: Zappos schools Google, y’all

Zappos and Google had a marketing street fight and the video proves that there’s a clear winner. This guerrilla marketing tactic is risky but genius, have a look.

Zappos, Google, and cupcakes

Once upon a time, Google headed to the streets of Austin Texas to bless folks with free cupcakes, so long as they tried their new photo app. I’d personally do far worse for a free cupcake, so trying a photo app is nothing, and apparently Austinites felt the same.

One by one, people flocked to the food truck in exchange for a photo; making Google’s #paywithaphoto marketing plan a clever one indeed. However, when Zappos decided to park a booth next to the food truck, with their own marketing scheme, Google’s plan seemed to dwindle in comparison.

Zappos sets up shop

Midway through the #paywithaphoto campaign, Zappos set up shop right next to their truck, and advertised #paywithacupcake: a genius plan where people gave the cupcake they received from Google, in exchange for a Zappos product.

In simpler terms, Zappos took advantage of Google’s efforts and audience; assuming none of the risk, cost or effort that went into attracting the people initially, but reaping all of the benefits; brilliant, but where does that leave Google? I’d say a pretty bad position, considering each person that went to the Google truck, may have eventually only been doing so to retrieve a free Zappos product.


Just knowing that many cupcakes were wasted, pushes me to the edge of my sanity, so I’m sure google is just as perplexed on where to go from here. What’s the smartest way for a huge conglomerate like that to respond in an effective, and tasteful way: lawsuit, silence, try another marketing campaign, or just give up and let Zappos have the win?

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Because consumers still had to use the photo app, just like Google intended, and because Zappos isn’t technically a competitor, I don’t think a law suit is the best way. After all, you cant sue someone for being more clever than you. I also don’t believe it’s fitting for a company with as much muscle, traction, and followers as Google to stay quiet either. Instead, a well planned, marketing campaign is definitely in order: Go hard or Go Home.

Is something in the works?

I think if the historically proven, brilliant minds of Google, teamed together to come up with an outrageously funny response parody, they would successfully grab people’s attention. They have two parody options: 1) they could declare war with Zappos in a “behind the box campaign” revealing the man who is accepting the cupcakes as some creepy, no one you’d ever want to give a cupcake to kind of guy, or 2) they could partner with Zappos to create a video spin off of that epic day when their food truck got outsmarted by a booth.

Whichever response Google chooses, I’ll be sure to be tuned in to see the marketing magic for myself. They can’t afford to be left speechless by Zappos once more so I’m confident there is something in the works!


Written By

Lauren Flanigan is a Staff Writer at The American Genius, hailing from the windy hills of Cincinnati, with a degree in Marketing from the University of Cincinnati. She has escaped the hills, and currently resides in Atlanta, where you can almost always find her camping at a Starbucks strategizing on how to take over the world.

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