Thursday, August 11

Not-so-special Delivery

FedEx is not only missing a great positive opportunity, it is doing its best to turn it into a negative.

It started with a guy named Jose Avila. Moving to another city for work, he was temporarily stuck with two leases, and had no money for furniture. Being a loyal FedEx customer, he made furniture out of FedEx boxes.
"One thing I’ve always stood behind is I'm pro-FedEx. I ship stuff with FedEx all that time and I feel more comfortable shipping with FedEx because their boxes are stable and sturdy."
Great endorsement. But now that good feeling is being put to the test.

Avila put up a website (which is intermittently up and offline) which included pictures of his creations. Back in June, it caught the attention of a Public Relations Blog specialist, who thought it would be a great "viral marketing" gimmick for FedEx, and contacted the FedEx PR department.

He didn't hear anything back, until word got out that FedEx was suing Avila to take down his site. The legal basis was a violation of the DMCA (basically, publishing a digital picture of things with the FedEx logo.) In addition, FedEx is claiming that Avila's use of a ".com" domain for his site was "proof" that he intended to somehow improperly profit from using the FedEx name and logo. (It has nothing to do with the fact that ".com" is the default and standard for just about anyone looking for anything on the internet.)

Well, the blogger is now trying to get FedEx to see how bad this looks to the Wired generation.

FedEx could have had it's own version of Jared: a normal guy who believes in the product so much, he becomes his own free publicity. Instead, it's running the risk of being the uncaring company that is suing a guy who can't afford his own furniture.

(I seem to recall an older Saturday Night Live episode, where R.E.M.'s Michael Stipe wore a suit made of FedEx wrapping. Will they sue to block that show from reruns?)


At 8/18/2005 07:07:00 PM, Blogger Jeremy said...

I figured I'd bring the conversation here - Ike, I interviewed both FedEx and Jose today (it's the latest post).

I still don't see a connect between Jared and Jose (well, beyond the J). Jared lost weight eating Subway - which is a nice kudo for Subway - and by exercising. Jose took product that he said he was going to use for shipping, and then made furniture out of it. Yes, FedEx is proud of the sturdiness of the boxes, but they are not in the business of providing boxes for people to play with for their amusement because they are depressed.

At least Jared is scarfing down Subway sandwiches, helping Subway make money.

At 8/18/2005 10:01:00 PM, Blogger Ike said...

No problem. There's never a crowd here. *(crickets)*

It's not a perfect 1-to-1 connection because we're talking about two different types of campaigns.

Jared is in traditional broadcast and print ads, to the extent that "Fogel" isn't necessary anymore.

I thought I was being fairly specific in referring to Jose as a "viral" opportunity. He fits the bill for many reasons:

1 - Viral campaigns require a sense of humor or whimsy to spread. FedEx furniture is just oddball enough to warrant a look for the curious.
2 - Viral campaigns can be targeted to a specific audience. In this case, "geek chic." And internet geeks who do a lot of shipping appreciate companies with a sense of humor.
3 - Viral campaigns need to be cheap.

I'm not sure how Jose would have fit in. I don't even think he comes remotely close to the level of paid endorser. Any campaign that would have involved "creating a Jose", or loyal customer, would have been more trouble than it is worth. But in this case, the dude falls right in your lap. You've got to at least entertain the possibility that there's something to be gained here.

All that said, the legal department needs to run through a reality check before dropping the heavy hammer on people. I'd buy the 20/20 hindsight argument, except FedEx already knew that bloggers were watching. It wouldn't surprise me if the PR department first caught wind of Jose from the Weblogswork guy.

And also -- the DMCA thing was a little much.

Jeremy -- I love your blog. You've carved out a niche, and that's no mean feat.

Any suggestions for my site? My Trump post is the first one to really generate traffic, so I still have time to tweak a few things before graduating to the C-list.



Your two cents...

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