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The innovation that is subscription boxes has long intrigued the team at Brand Genetics: since 2010 the market has soared – Birchbox, one of the pioneers in this space, has shipped 5,000,000 boxes worldwide to date. What’s driving this?

Of course convenience is crucial, as consumers buy into the ease of automated delivery, but when Amazon Prime and the like can deliver whatever you want in a matter of ever decreasing hours, there seems to be something more at play.

We believe people are engaging emotionally with subscription boxes because they want to be surprised. In today’s world you can look at your hotel room long before you get there, see the restaurant menu before you decide to book,  even check out what your potential date likes and dislikes. But the subscription box has effectively commoditised the childhood delight of receiving a party bag at the end of a birthday celebration.

In a world where brands are battling to add excitement to increasingly commoditised products, subscription boxes bring a fresh emotion to the table. The potential is considerable, and start-ups are already making headway in spreading this initiative beyond it’s current core space:

  • E Pantry, delivers a range of all natural household cleaning products to house proud customers every month. Ranging from old favourites to just launched products, the clientele desire variety.
  • Pink Parcel, a monthly subscription that delivers time of the month boxes. These include the consumer’s brand choice of sanitary wear among with various ‘treats’- from beauty products, luxury snacks and ‘night in’ activities such as dvds. The box transforms a necessary monthly purchase into an amplified entertaining experience.

For brands, subscriptions offer a different angle from which to build brand loyalty – developing the role of the brand as service. The box allows stories and products to be contextualised within an experience, engaging with peoples’ emotions and enriching a brand story.

Whilst few brands are yet to truly harness this opportunity, some are steaming ahead and showing us the way:

  • Sipsmiths, deliver sample size bottles of experimental gin that never made it to full production quarterly.  Exciting, experimental and above all enjoyable!
  • Hotel Chocolat, run all their innovative new flavours past their monthly tasting club. Only the treats with the highest scores are developed into products for the store’s shelves.

Is this the way to get in through the consumers front door and stay there? We would be surprised if more didn’t follow suit – after all, as we’re fond of saying, ‘The future is out there, it’s just unevenly distributed’.

By Olivia Galvin


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