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Thinking inside the box

Life has been rather boring of late, but take heart: brands have been devising new formats to treat us.

A friend of mine recently received a fantastic present through their letterbox. Not a free flight to New Zealand or an Invisibility cloak, but something nevertheless rather nice: a bottle of red wine. Posted. Through the letterbox.

'Letterbox wine' is part of a growing trend within the gifting world to create versions of products that are small, squidgy or slim enough to push through your letterbox and delight the receiver. Letterbox flowers are another good example.

Over the course of the pandemic, we've seen lots of different brands adapting and changing due to COVID. I'm sure you are aware (or even users) of the plethora of new apps that have been developed, e.g. House Party, Noom, and even contact-tracing. Then we have the prolific music industry, where artists have united millions of viewers around the world through online gigs and special releases. But something I've found particularly innovative and somewhat amusing is how brands have become more inventive to help you send gifts directly to others… through the letterbox.

Being 'locked' inside has created a delightful opportunity to treat others in a way that we haven't seen before. Sending something directly from your home to theirs opens up a whole new world of gifting. Rather than grabbing a doughnut with a friend at your favourite fairground, or sharing a brownie slice from your local café, you can simply click online and deliver one straight into someone's house. Doughnuttime and The Dessert Box Co, for example, nail this idea with their affordable, letterbox-friendly gifts that give someone an extra little treat.

The drinks industry has also risen to the challenge particularly well. We've seen the likes of flat-pack whisky, for example 'Masters of malt', who send miniature tasting packs, and an exciting new craze of letterbox cocktails to 'change it up on the weekend' by building your own cocktail night, e.g. Mothership . Now we even have wine: look out for rectangular-shaped wine, in a recycled plastic bottle, that slips right through your letterbox.

All of these are great examples of how organisations are adapting to the pandemic, attempting to zig while others zag and displaying true characteristics of creativity, or to put it another way, 'thinking inside the box'.

Is this the future? Miniaturised, malleable versions of our favourite brands and products, designed to slip nicely through our letterboxes? There are certainly some good arguments in favour of the trend. Not only are there huge reductions on packaging, i.e. no more hefty boxes, with unnecessary, wasteful fillings (which is a huge bonus), but also, you don't even need to be in the house to receive your lovely gift (although do spare a thought for the Posty).

I am slightly hesitant, though. What if your letter box is too small? What if the carefully designed product simply doesn't fit? Then it would be delivery as normal, dropped on your doorstep (or thrown over the side gate). All that excitement thrown away. I guess that's a risk that every brand owner takes when designing their products. Or perhaps this opens up a new opportunity for house builders, architects and door manufacturers, to modify the size and shape of letterboxes in the future? Are we creating a doorway (literally) for new innovation?

My final thought is around taste. Wine aficionados (and correct me if I'm wrong) would probably turn their noses up at the idea of a flat-packed plastic bottle of their favourite tipple. The concept actually takes me back to college years, sat on the bus sipping wine from a water bottle on route to a party. I think I'll simply have to try one to find out.

Anyway, back to the reason I decided to talk about letterbox wine in the first place. We all love receiving gifts from people and we especially love receiving gifts that make us think "Wow.". Gifts that are creative. So, maybe thinking 'inside the box' is the future? What about groceries? Inflatable furniture? Flat pack SDA's? Foldable footwear? I'll let your minds wander.

 

Bella Wateridge
Research Executive, Razor Research Ltd

This article was first published in InBrief magazine, March 2021
Copyright © Association for Qualitative Research, 2021