Outsiders Beware. Your Brilliant Idea Could Be Terrible.
Several years ago, I was standing in the security line at Nashville's airport. I stood there anxiously like the rest of the cattle, with my shoes in one hand and my bag in the other. As I lowered my shoes into the white plastic bin, I noticed a brilliant marketing move.
The base of the bin had been lined with an advertisement for Zappos, the online shoe store. Picture placing your old, worn shoes into a bin with an ad encouraging you to order your next pair online. Talk about reaching your target market, right? Brilliant!
This was the first time I had seen the white, security bin boxes branded. I imagined how many people would see the ads before arriving to their gates. What do people do when they get to their gate? They wait. They hop on their phones, tablets, or laptops, to surf the web before boarding time. I imagined Zappos' sales had spiked as a result.
She shook her head in disagreement and said, "It's terrible."
When I passed the security check, the TSA agent stood behind the conveyor of plastic bins. She looked to me as I picked out my shoes. I told her I thought it was a brilliant idea for ads to be placed in the bins. She shook her head in disagreement and said, "It's terrible."
She explained that since the ads had appeared in the otherwise white bins, passengers were continuously leaving something behind. The ads camouflaged their wallets, passports, purses, and keys. I wondered how many people had to dart back to security in a mad panic after realizing their wallet was left behind. I bet people have even missed flights because of this. I agreed with the TSA agent that it was a terrible idea after all.
What can seem brilliant in a boardroom can be terrible once rolled out, because there is not enough knowledge about the environment. I don't blame Zappos for this, I still think it was a clever idea. Unfortunately, it has also proved terrible for TSA agents and unsuspecting passengers.
Can you think of other examples of brilliant, terrible ideas?