The Colorado-based marketing company Cravebox, which has just begun to work with publishers, is something of an oddity. It attracts consumers with a very old-fashioned offering, the gift box, and then engages them through a barrage of new media pushes. For book publishers, the company offers the possibility of building a new customer base, as opposed to reaching out to existing readers.
Cravebox is just over a year old and was cofounded by CEO Kitty Kolding, an entrepreneur whose previous job was overseeing a marketing firm called House Party Inc. That company, like Cravebox, offered consumers incentives built around marketing a product: it facilitated house parties, which would center on a food brand or book. The boxes Cravebox offers feature an array of products and are usually valued between $10 and $15. They are advertised online and via outreach to the company’s existing membership, which includes roughly 200,000 people.
If a consumer finds out about a gift box of interest, he or she enters a drawing to win it. Cravebox then matches the entrants, demographically, with the best fit for the product being marketed. So, if the item is a book aimed at female baby boomers, Cravebox will focus on that group in selecting the winners, who do not pay for the box or shipping.
The number of boxes Cravebox ships can swing widely, depending on the size of the campaign. Once the boxes have been shipped, Cravebox will reach out directly to the recipients, inquiring about whether they liked the gift box and, of course, the main product in the promotion. The company will then engage with the gift box recipients on various social media platforms, from Twitter to Facebook to Pinterest, offering, in the case of books, opportunities to interact with the author and other readers. Finally, in an attempt to turn gift box recipients into evangelists for the product at the center of the campaign, Cravebox will offer prizes and incentives to those who start promoting the item on their own.
Currently the company’s membership is largely women, and Cravebox claims that, even for a shipment under 10,000 boxes, it can create between 25 and 40 million “impressions.” (A rep for Cravebox noted that impressions include the glimpsing of print ads, tweets, and Facebook posts—anything that puts a product in front of a consumer.)
For its first book campaign, Cravebox worked with St. Martin’s Press on a promotion for Kaya McLaren’s novel How I Came to Sparkle Again. The company offered a Book Lovers Cravebox, which featured the title along with three other products: strawberry licorice, a nut mix, and a charm bracelet. SMP signed up for 1,500 boxes and Cravebox said the overall “reach” of the campaign—from September 23 through October 23, 2012—was just over 1.3 million, with a total of over 41 million impressions. (The “reach” of a campaign, the Cravebox rep noted, is broken down by “uniques.” This means that “if you saw three tweets, and one Facebook post, you would count as one for reach.”)
Cravebox has worked with, in addition to SMP, Harlequin, Random House, and Hachette. Referring to campaigns with book publishers, Kolding said the company has “two more locked in, with four more in development.” Currently all the campaigns are with major houses and have been for novels, though Cravebox will soon be working on a promotion for a diet book.