Marketing lessons from my shoes

By Andrew Berthoff

I recently purchased new shoes online. I like to support local companies, and I always look for things distinct, so I returned to shop at John Fluevog. I don’t often buy shoes, but always enjoy checking out the unique styles – flamboyant or relatively conservative – that this Canadian shoemaker offers.

Shopping online is generally an anonymous experience – call it soulless (as my late fatherused to say, “No pun intended”? Why not?!). With most online shopping sites, the transaction comprises a pre-formatted e-mail confirmation of the purchase and, then, maybe a week later, the arrival of the goods in a plain box with no personalization, no comment, and no thanks for your business.

Andrew Berthoff


Not so with the Fluevians. Even online, they understand that their customer service needs to fit with the style and spirit of the brand – personalized, appreciative and just a shade irreverent. After choosing and purchasing my shoes, I received an e-mail confirmation:

Thank you for placing your web order with John Fluevog Shoes!

We will contact you again within 5 business days to confirm which of our fine locations will be fulfilling your order, and then again when it is shipped.

Please allow 2 weeks from the order date for North American delivery (we know sometimes that feels like a long time . . . think of it in terms of the history of the universe).

If you have any questions regarding your shoes, please see our policies or contact us at Please quote your confirmation number in all correspondence.

If you want to see John’s car please visit us here.

Thanks again – you’ve got great taste… (especially you)

The message made me feel as if they actually cared about me personally, that the shoes I chose were just for me and they knew that I’d find the bit about the car humorous. All of these are elements of the brand and, even though it’s an online transaction, the service has the crucial human touch.

A few days later, another e-mail update:

Your awesome Fluevogs will be arriving to you from the store listed below (which is one of our best ones). If you have any quizzical questions, additional additions, or ch-ch-changes, please contact that store directly (contact details below) and one of its highly trained Fluevogologists will give you the quickest and best service possible.

It should be noted that when your order came in earlier, a few of us sat around at break and talked about how awesome your taste and decision-making ability was. We hope you had a wonderful time on the site, we enjoyed cyber-hanging out with you.

Fluevologists? Bowie? I like these people even more.

Then, as promised, my shoes arrived. In the box was a hand-written note – in pen – to me, Dear Andrew, with more of the same personalized customer service. They even threw in a handful of retro campaign-style buttons for me to sport or hand out to friends, and my shoes were wrapped in a thick felt shoe-bag, imprinted with a message from John Fluevog himself:

“Always hold on to the truth. Don’t let others sway your heart. Don’t compromise yourself for the sake of temporal groovyness. Be separate from the crowd that’s awash with normality by standing on a firm foundation. Never waver in your love or faith, and in all you do, please wear my shoes.”

There has never been so much competition for business in the world as there is now. More often than not, customer service is not just a key differentiator, it’s the differentiator. In e-commerce, businesses usually make the mistake of assuming that the human touch isn’t feasible simply because almost everything is automated and electronic. Big mistake.

The shopping, the transaction, the delivery, the service are all essential aspects of a company’s brand. As Fluevog understands, even online they can strengthen it. They got soul.

Andrew Berthoff is a senior vice-president with Environics Communications, a leading communications and public relations agency based in Toronto, serving, among other sectors, the Canadian technology industry. His e-mail address is  This article originally appeared on Andrew’s blog Thanks, Augie

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