Fender, the legendary guitar-maker, has joined forces with online shoe and clothing retailer Zappos.com in an effort to engage with new guitar players and to promote wellness to the retailer's staff, the first partnership in a potential line of pairings.
Through the ‘Strum for the Sole’ program, a first-of-its-kind wellness benefit that promotes a work-life balance through the power of music learning, Zappos employees will have the opportunity to learn an instrument using Fender Play, a digital learning app for guitar, bass and ukulele, as a means to reduce stress, promote increased creativity, self-expression and confidence, among other benefits.
Fender hopes the pilot will not only benefit Zappos employees and make them lifelong guitar players and devotees to the brand, but also will help raise awareness of Fender Play and make the program a major online music education destination.
Evan Jones, chief marketing officer at Fender, said that the partnership with Zappos came about through connections Fender employees had with the company, but that working with “like-minded partners who are committed to wellness and health” makes sense for both brands.
“They’ve got a really good reputation from an employee perspective in terms of how they take care of their employees,” he told The Drum.
Jones cited research that had shown that 90% of the people who picked up the guitar and learned how to play quit after the first year. Fender Play was designed to help aspiring guitar players find a way in and hopefully stick with the guitar most of their lives.
Added Mary Keenan, Fender Play director of product: "Looking for other opportunities to extend the benefits of music learning is a top priority for us. When Fender Play first started it wasn’t just about creating another online learning program, our mission was really to try and address the very high dropout rate we had of people who attempt to play an instrument and then give it up because life gets in the way."
The ‘Strum for the Sole’ program is available to all Zappos employees on an opt-in basis and includes access to Fender Play. Zappos has even dedicated a jam room on its corporate campus in Las Vegas where employees can go to relax during the workday. In support of employees taking their musical journey to the next level, or simply taking a break to de-stress, Fender is outfitting Zappos’ jam room exclusively with Fender instruments, amps and accessories, namely guitars and basses from it's Player, Vintera and California Series. Zappos employees will also receive a discount on select gear and instruments on Fender.com, should they wish to purchase for at-home or personal use.
Bhawna Provenzano, director of employee benefits and diversity at Zappos, has helped grow the wellness program at the company over the last nine years, and one thing the company focuses on is mental wellbeing.
“There’s so much research out there that shows how music therapy can reduce stress, help people slow down and help people express their creativity. We thought that would be really great to bring that to Zappos and have a jam room, have people come in, slow down and learn a new skill set,” she told The Drum.
She added that music is instrumental in helping people build creativity, which develops confidence. “All those things can help you in your personal life and at Zappos as well. At the end of the day, this is a fun benefit that we think will just be nice for people to just get away from their desk every once in a while and learn something new. It’s something you can take with you and it also helps build social connections, which is really important for us. I feel there are so many positive benefits.”
‘Strum for the Sole’ – the name came from Zappos’ original role of selling shoes, and the strumming of a guitar – may be a pilot program for Fender, but it is one that has many business possibilities moving forward.
“If it’s successful, and we hope it will be, we can then extend to multiple other corporate partners who might also want to make music available to their employee base as part of their own health and wellness programs,” Jones stated, adding that it also hopes to grow Fender Play, which has been around for two years and has over 100,000 users.
For Zappos, they would like to see their workforce get behind the program and help it succeed and grow, taking the skills to their families, creating bonds, and possibly even start a Zappos band.
“We’re a work hard-play hard environment, so to be able to do whatever we can to help decrease stress and help people slow down and expand on their creativity, that’s all we can hope for,” said Provenzano.
The Drum took part in its own music education effort recently, partnering with music school The Guitar Social to enter the Guinness World Records books for the longest guitar lesson held to raise funds to help blind and partially sighted people learn how to play the guitar.