By  on September 27, 2007

Not all brand-building exercises have to involve elaborate, multilayered marketing programs. Take Saks Fifth Avenue's new shoe floor, 10022-SHOE.

As Terron E. Schaefer, Saks' group senior vice president of creative and marketing, admitted, the concept of getting the floor its own zip code is "a very simple branding idea that has been working very well."

The largest designer shoe department in Manhattan opened last month to traffic that matched the magnitude of the selection. The 17,500-square-foot eighth floor of the Manhattan flagship replaces the smaller fourth-floor shoe department, with inventory up 150 percent, 50 percent more selling space and 75 percent greater storage space. Should the scale of the project be forgotten, the department is even named 10022-SHOE.

The biggest challenge was convincing "bureaucrats in Washington," according to Schaefer, because the U.S. Post Office does not have the technology to read alphanumeric zip codes. But Schaefer and his team convinced postal officials of the value of the idea for the future — although he admitted that Saks proceeded with the branding exercise even before receiving final approval from the U.S. government.

"Everyone thinks we paid for it, but we didn't pay a dime," Schaefer said. "This is an opportunity for the U.S. Post Office to sell the zip code equivalent of vanity license plates….So the Post Office, which is not known for innovation, thought this was a big idea."

Saks got the 10022-SAKS zip code, around which the public could see another branding campaign in the future. Schaefer foresees other companies, like Nike or Coke, registering for their own zip codes as well.

Saks also uses 10022-SHOE for branding purposes on signage, hangtags on bags, boxes and throughout the department. And the eighth floor takes the mail idea to a literal level by giving out free postcards, selling stamps and supplying a mailbox in which shoppers can send notes. The campaign included limited edition stamps, designed by some of the world's best-known shoe designers (who also made personal appearances at the new floor). Schaefer said Saks sold 1,000 sets of stamps in a week. Saks now is working to create a stamp cut in the shape of a shoe — the first stamp in U.S. postal history not to be a square, triangle or rectangle, according to Schaefer.The result of the branding exercise has been more than 75 print articles, more than 250 television spots and more than 12,000 Google citations. Both traffic in the stores and sales have increased dramatically, including from 125 women who chartered a plane from Iceland to see the shoe mecca.

"Oprah has shot a segment," Schaefer added. "I am terrified the door will be broken down after it airs."

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