Experience the Casual Lifestyle, a.k.a. Become a Shiftless Layabout in Sandals

I have something I want to show you all.  Take a gander at this advertisement that found its way to my mailbox early this morning:

Because the Casual Lifestyle is so Exotically Foreign to Most of Us Here in America
Because the Casual Lifestyle is so Exotically Foreign to Most of Us Here in America

Now, y’all know I love Zappos as much as any red-blooded American shoe-loving woman can.  The selection! The reviews! The searchability! The free overnight shipping! It’s like heaven made out of pixels.

HOWEVER.

“Live the casual life”? Is this something people need to be coached on via pictorial advert? I think not.  No one needs encouragement to “experience the casual lifestyle” through the wearing of flip flops, Birkenstocks, Tevas, or any other kind of casual summer shoe.  If you ask me (and no one did but that’s never stopped me before), the LAST thing people need is some sort of guide on how to look frumpy, sloppy, and lazy for the summer.  I am pretty sure we have got that covered, Zappos.

Here in New Wye, it’s a shock to see anyone wearing pants with an actual zipper or pockets.  If you see someone wearing real closed-toe shoes, you can bet your life those shoes are Topsiders.  Around Wordsmith campus, it’s all Nike shorts, flip flops, sweats, Topsiders, Uggs, and baggy tee shirts. ALL THE TIME.  We are up to our tits in the casual lifestyle already, thankyouverymuch. The only way it could get more casual would be if people started wearing Snuggies to class — and now that I’ve said that they probably will.

(Rare exceptions: nights out on the town, where they tend to still wear the shorty-short-shorts but pair them with stillettos instead of flip flops. I know. Edgy.)

Moving back to the advertisement, let’s take a look at these people:

Mandals and Ukeleles, Important Tokens of the Casual Lifestyle
Mandals and Ukeleles, Important Tokens of the Casual Lifestyle

And here is where they have moved beyond advocating the lifestyle of a shiftless layabout and gone into the territory of poorly-constructed and ineffectual salesmanship. “Cruise the boardwalk” in your ugly mandals?  NO THANKS.  And look at the zany ukulele guy on the right, will you? “Enjoy your friends,” commands the caption.  While I most certainly would enjoy hanging around with my zany ukulele-playing friends if I lived near them (yes, I do have zany ukulele-playing friends, don’t you?), I hardly think the appropriate casual shoe would help me enjoy their friendship any more than I already do.  Zappos seems to think otherwise. “Think back to when your favorite shoes made every outfit worth wearing and every experience worth having,” they write, revealing the sad, shallow lives their copy writers must live.  If the only thing that made life worth living was having the right pair of shoes, and NOW THAT IS GONE BECAUSE THEY DON’T HAVE THE PROPER TOPSIDERS, how empty, how hollow must their souls now be? It’s a good thing Zappos is there to fill the void.

The next panel is just as bad:

She's So in Love with Her Life She's Swooning Right There on That Bench
She's So in Love with Her Life She's Swooning Right There on That Bench

“Love your life” – but only with the right wardrobe!  Your friends will make you feel beautiful, they argue, by complimenting you on your new purchases.  Once again, I fear,  life will be brittle and joyless without the appropriate casual shoe.

Yeah, sure, this is the same subtext of nearly every advertisement out there.  We’re asked to place ourselves in the position of someone who has purchased the relevant item, easily slipping ourselves into the pleasant, easy-wheeling scene depicted in the commercial. Buying the item brings happiness!  That’s how it works.  But, you know, like I said, that’s the SUBTEXT.  Not the fucking TEXT.  Thanks, Zappos, for your refreshingly literal take on this technique.

Perhaps their Teva-shod, elastic-waisted-shorts-wearing copywriters were too busy “experiencing the casual lifestyle” to bother employing metaphor.

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11 thoughts on “Experience the Casual Lifestyle, a.k.a. Become a Shiftless Layabout in Sandals

  1. HA HA HA April 15, 2009 / 2:40 pm

    Maybe the copywriter has grown sick of the whole foul marketing business and started subverting it?

    Or maybe there was an accident involving a hangover and a deadline.

    Actually it reads really amateurish like a undergraduate wrote it on a deadline with really fast and had 2 hand it in 2 the teacher. “Friends will always let you know when whatever skirt…” is a weird sentence. Also “Your feet have been everywhere you’ve been and will continue to go everywhere you go.” They’re not just saying dumb things; they’re saying them really awkwardly.

    If I were a Zappo’s customer, I would write in very angrily and say that after having lost a foot in a grain-thresher accident, I don’t very much appreciate having them taunt me about feet going everywhere I go. Because they won’t. Not any more, you heartless creeps!

    I’m growing used to the colors, or inured at least. But now I just also discovered the Vanishing Sidebar and I played with it for ten minutes! I love it!

  2. Alfina the Vague April 15, 2009 / 7:37 pm

    Now that you mention it, it does read like a sad undergrad assignment. The line about feet always being with you is the exact sort of faux-witticism they like to employ in the first sentence of a freshman comp paper. HMMMM.

  3. Sho April 15, 2009 / 10:38 pm

    Maybe the latest Zappos customer survey revealed that 90% of visitors to the website had a family income of $100,000-150,000 and indicated their occupation as “business professional”, hence the need to invite people to “experience the casual lifestyle. But somehow, I doubt that.

  4. John April 16, 2009 / 1:52 am

    Who wears short-shorts?

    Wow. I must be incredibly out of touch, because I don’t know anything about Zappos, Topsiders, or Snuggies. What are these things? Where did they come from? Who is responsible for their rise in popularity? Egads! I think I am becoming culturally alienated.

  5. Aaron Magness April 16, 2009 / 9:39 am

    Hey there – I just wanted to say thanks for taking the time to post about our most recent email. This was a new format for us as we were trying to promote our magalog that just dropped. We understand that we cannot please everyone all of the time, but comments like this make sure we stay on our toes and are listening to our customers.

    I appreciate feedback on everything we do as we continue to strive to improve our communications, site, service and everything else that goes along with building a successful brand. Thanks!

    Aaron Magness
    Business Development
    Zappos.com – Powered by Service
    amagness [at] zappos dot com
    Twitter: @macknuttie
    http://www.zapposinsights.com

  6. Alfina the Vague April 16, 2009 / 12:05 pm

    John – this is what you get for living in France & Switzerland. You become horribly out of touch with our North American fads. Aren’t you sorry now! Ha! Well, of course none of this matters, but I DO suggest you check out this ad for the Snuggie, because it’s absolutely hilariously bad and represents everything that is both terrible and wonderful about America. [youtube link]

  7. Alfina the Vague April 16, 2009 / 12:07 pm

    Aaron Magness – Wow. I never thought my little blog over here would catch the attention of Zappos! Thanks for your comment. Look, I really do think this ad (especially the copy writing) is one of the silliest things I have even seen. That doesn’t change the fact that Zappos is still my very favorite online store though.

  8. Timothy April 16, 2009 / 12:31 pm

    The ad needs more scenes from Thunderdome and fewer smiling yuppies.

  9. clarabella April 16, 2009 / 12:51 pm

    All the shoe you buy from Zappos now are going to be spit on.

  10. John April 16, 2009 / 1:14 pm

    Holy crap! The people in the Snuggie commercial look like they belong in a cult!

    Anyways, Switzerland, France and now … Luxembourg! I spent the day shredding my old dissertation documents and notes. It was so cathartic. I am now breaking out the wine. End of the month, I move and finally somebody starts paying me! They’re actually going to pay me. Now I can’t remember why I did the dissertation in the first place; nobody paid me for that. I am confused.

  11. suomichris April 20, 2009 / 10:06 am

    I especially like the ‘Enjoy your friends’. Like, should I eat them? Or take advantage of them? I prefer to enjoy spending time with my friends, but I don’t really enjoy them, as such…

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