Catalog Brands Die; “Box Brands” Are Born

It is an easy observation that as society and the world in which we live changes, the way we interact with brands changes too. However it is not so easy for brands to keep up. If you think about pre-Internet days, there were only two ways to shop at home: infomercials and catalogs. And catalogs were the grandfather of them all. But now, in the digital age, catalogs, and the brands that defined them, are taking a hit. JC Penny, Sears, and many others are finding it hard to cope and stay relevant within our changing society. And to add to it. There is a new player in the game.

Introducing what I like to call “Box Brands”.  Box Brands are the next step in the shop-at-home/mail-order experience. These companies send boxes to their subscribers to try, rate, enjoy, and return—all for a small monthly fee.  In case you are unfamiliar, take a look at Rachel’s blog on Nature Box and Graze. Here are some main differentiators between “Boxes” and catalogs that make it easy to see why catalogs are antiquated:

The “try” factor.

Consumers today find it too cumbersome to have to order something out of a catalog, wait a couple days, get it in the mail, and come to find it doesn’t fit and then they have to pay to return it.

Warby Parker is an eyeglass company that mails frames to customers so they can try them and get opinions before buying them (Michelle mentions them here).

Trunk Club, a male clothing retailer, pairs individuals with a professional stylist who ships them clothes (for free) that he can choose to keep and purchase or return in the prepaid trunk.  Brands like these are demonstrating on every level that creating satisfied customers with a great product and exceptional brand experience is why they are in business.

Trunk-Club - Tag Strategies Blog
Try it. You’ll like it. (Or maybe not.)

I’ll start out by saying: I don’t wear makeup. However, I do know a few people who do, and even though I’m not well versed in these products, I do know that trying a variety can be expensive and time consuming. That’s where Birchbox seems to capture the hearts of makeup wearers. For $10 a month, you get a selection of seasonal items that last until the next monthly shipments arrives…and you can experiment all over again. Birchbox does have men’s products, but when it comes to the men’s “Box of choice” Dollar Shave Club is usually first.

Birchbox - Tag Strategies Blog

These brands have done well because they figured out how to take advantage of convenience, lower costs and offer choices—all in a “box format” making it feel more like a gift than a purchase. The fact of the matter is these brands are taking great products and ideas and making sure every touchpoint feels like a “special delivery.”

To demonstrate: I’m sure clothes from the JC Penny catalog are good clothes that would fit me and my style and last just as long as any Trunk Club item. However, that process seems unnecessary when another company will let me try on clothes, in my own home, and return them for free.

The same goes for a system like Birchbox. Why would anyone spend time in a makeup aisle or store choosing a product, only to go home, open the package and find it doesn’t look good?

Boxes seem to be tackling problems in ways that catalogs simply can’t, including taking over the dinner table. This isn’t to say there aren’t drawbacks like what really happens when we pay so little and think we’re getting away with it or the risks that come with the great migration back to the kitchen as this Fast Company article points out.

As for now, it seems as though Box Brands are meeting needs through convenience and choice to deliver an experience that today’s consumers appreciate and expect. (Especially millennials.)

Note: This guest blog provided by former superstar intern Joe Stingle. #Joejob