A case study of an e-Business Subscription Model

Recently I stumbled upon an innovative site which I really liked.  The site is ( and it is a website through which customers can take out a weekly subscription on snacks.

Graze serves the British and US market with 2 localised websites and targets people who are after healthy and convenient snacking.  Apart from snacking, Graze also serves other segments namely the breakfast and kids segments along with providing seasonal ranges, gifts both in individual portion or sharing boxes.

A screenshot  of the main page showing a variety of snacks, the famous cardboard box and a simple diagram of how the site works
A screenshot of the main page showing a variety of snacks, the famous cardboard box and a simple diagram of how the site works

The concept behind the website is simple and this has been explained very clearly on the website.  You choose the snacks that you like (from over a hundred), and then Graze will pick four of your chosen snacks in a box and deliver to your home or office on a regular basis (weekly, every two weeks, etc).  You can then snack (or graze….) to your heart’s content on nutritional snacks that are free of GMOs, preservatives and high fructose corn syrup.  Customers can manage their subscription so that even when they go on holiday they can postpone the regular deliveries.  Customers can also rate the snacks, thus giving Graze valid market information about trends and what its customers really want!  Graze has turned all the cycle into a learning marketing exercise and customers who want to stop their subscription are asked to fill in questionnaire.

Some Breakfast Snack Variety by
Some Breakfast Snack Variety by

From a customer’s point, the services provided by Graze is very convenient and from the company’s perspective, this model ensures a steady income flow of subscribed customers.   Subscription means that the company automatically has repeat customers (which many times is one of the headaches of online retailers).  The subscription mechanism allows a company to have clear projections about sales and cash flow. Subscription also eliminates a lot of guesswork (or forecasting) and one can also plan more accurately about volume of supplies to serve its base of subscribers.

The website which is very easy to browse, provides full specifics about the products and more important explicit calls for action, nudging the potential customer in the right direction to try them out.  Information about ingredients, allergies and gluten have been addressed with clearly designed labels.  The attention to detail in designing all aspects of the product and the product is really visible.  For example, when it comes to packaging, the snacks are delivered in a cleverly designed recycled cardboard box and the website even gives precise dimensions of the box so that customers can make sure that their Graze box will fit their mailbox!

The Graze Box with 4 slots for an assortment of 4 individually packaged snacks
The Graze Box with 4 slots for an assortment of 4 individually packaged snacks

Back to the web presence, one can see that so much thought has gone into the planning – visually compelling photos, clear diagrams explaining how the subscription works and clear logical text along with branding that gives the product a lot of character.   All in all, Graze are providing a truly differentiated online value proposition!

A Graze customer can get the first box for his or her friends for free and Graze also offers the first box for half price.   There is no doubt that this promotion geared on sharing helps to bring the product to so many more people.  Interestingly enough, the promotion of the first free box is not mentioned anywhere on the website and Graze relies solely on the word-of-mouth of its customers to give out the free boxes.

This sharing and giving has resulted in a very good presence in social media.  There are many videos on YouTube and many have blogged about the Graze product.  Graze has harnessed over 87,000 likes on Facebook UK page and another 80,000 likes on its Facebook US page but its social media presence does not stop there.   Graze is also very active on Twitter and Instagram.

Wish it was available locally!

Prince George Alexandar Louis

The Marketing Force of a Newborn who is also a Prince

His title is Prince of Cambridge and doesn’t’ need a surname. But with a title like that who does?

There is no doubt that anything which is related to royalty is also a great opportunity to spin some money by a lot of businesses.  If that news is related to babies, then that money is bound to multiply further. It is no secret that today’s mummies spend a lot of time online and always research baby-related purchases in depth.  In this case, one will have to add that once endorsed by royalty, any item (from diapers to baby booties) will shine with the magic ‘fit for the Prince’.

Once the great wait was over, the birth was officially heralded in the most traditional of manners – a written document posted outside Buckingham palace. After all Royalty is also very much akin to protocol.  His birth announcement was trumpeted across the media sites and the social networking sites like wildfire.  The first news was that the royal babe was a boy, then came more details like his birth time and weight.

On his first day, his Christian name not yet known, many stores were already sporting competitions, discounts and deals as a celebration to honour the birth of the Prince. While the merchandising circus dished out souvenirs in all shapes and formats, cake decorators mulled on who will bake the christening cake and biscuit-makers baked all sorts of fancy-decorated cookies . Sites where women and mothers congregate, like Dailycandy ( were brimming with info about London’s smartest baby shops and services. From the most prestigious preschool, to nursery decor and monogrammed linen, first haircuts, baby spa, and posh play dates, it seemed that nothing has been left out and everything was being laid out for Kate.  But behind this, one can be certain that businesses are not only marking the birth of a Prince but hoping to unleash an ‘economic baby boom’.

DailyCandy site featured a  series of  premium London-based services and products - fit for a Prince
DailyCandy site featured a series of premium London-based services and products – fit for a Prince
Top: Next Newborn Clothing Bottom: Royalty Set Toy by  Early Learning Centre
Top: Next Newborn Clothing
Bottom: Royalty Set Toy by Early Learning Centre

Right on the baby’s first day, the Early Learning Centre launched its new toy, a set of toy dolls in the Happyland range, named ‘Royal Baby Set’, representing the Royal Family.   Other stores like Mothercare had discounts. Next too highlighted its line of baby wear with the writing ‘Born in 2013′ and likewise Tesco marketed its British Royalty-themed clothes for babies.  Once again, one of the themes chosen by price-savvy Tesco is  ‘Born in 2013′.

Mothercare UK offers and celebrations featured on FB and on the site
Mothercare UK offers and celebrations featured on FB and on the site

On the second day, when his name was revealed,  we had all kind of reviews about the Royal Family’s first appearance. Stores like NewLook reviewed Kate’s and William’s outfits and suggested items from their store to replicate the casual but elegant look that the new parents sported.  Mothercare UK Facebook  page covered the choice of baby car seat, Britax, a car seat that is available through Mothercare.  Yes, the forecasts for some stores and brands which Kate and Will will favour surely have a rosy outlook!

Endorsement by a Prince - Top: Mothercare FB posts about the Britax car seat used by Will and Kate; Bottom Left:  Tesco features a clothing range with royalty theme; Bottom Right: NewLook review on Kate's and Will's matching pale blue outfits with suggestions from NewLook's own range
Endorsement by a Prince
Top: Mothercare FB posts about the Britax car seat used by Will and Kate;
Bottom Left: Tesco features a clothing range with royalty theme;
Bottom Right: NewLook review on Kate’s and Will’s matching pale blue outfits with suggestions from NewLook’s own range

Once all the forecasts die down, we will have the real story unfold.  There is no doubt that in today’s connected world, the minute the baby is wheeled out wearing an outfit or in a carriage, that will be the biggest advert.

One can only imagine the queue of all baby-stuff suppliers at  Kensington Palace all hoping to woe mummy Kate, who will then choose to pick their products or services. From a marketing’s perspective, right now, Kate’s most valuable title is the ‘mummy title’. After all she will choosing products and services and with every of her decision she will be making a big endorsement.

Honestly I cannot  imagine a bigger endorsement –  after all the choice will be fit for a real Prince !!

Royalty Biscuits available through John Lewis Stores and Biscuiteers to celebrate the birth of a Prince
Royalty Biscuits available through John Lewis Stores and Biscuiteers to celebrate the birth of a Prince

Great Idea Poor Execution

I woke up today to a multitude of ‘potatoish’ statutes on Facebook. At first I ignored them but within a minute I had stumbled on the source – a video presenting and promoting the Maltese Derby Potato.

The idea is excellent – after all the Maltese potatoes are indeed one of the best in the world and can chin up to any rival product but in my opinion, the execution of the video leaves much to be desired.

The video has a ‘potentially’ good story-line, kicking off with a typical introduction to Malta but the first problems soon emerge:

– The script is not so well researched. Even though the potato is a very important crop, one cannot really state “No tradition is more closely associated with the island than the traditional potato harvest”.

– Several of the assertions that the young farmer states are somehow grammatically incorrect, and at times seem to be the result of an effort of a ‘poor’ translation from Maltese. At times the accompanying text at the bottom of the screen does not match his words. There are also some glaring typos and mistakes.

I found no problem with the authenticity of this young farmer’s English accent. After all, one can say, it is the accent of young man whose work has so far exposed him more to the toils of a field than to words. His passion and dedication for his work and the potato crop seem genuine and is admirable.

However I strongly believe that the director behind this production should have pruned the words in a way that ‘less is more’. Some statements should have been completely omitted, statements like “you can taste the sea, church, sun…” The sack-full of English language mistakes even in the transcription at the bottom of the video could have been avoided!

As at the point of writing, the video attracted only ‘Likes’, on YouTube. This is a clear indication that it went down well with the audience who saw it, but at the same time, some of the comments I read on Facebook like “ I have a dream….it’s a potato” come across more like mockery than praise.

Personally I concur with the young farmer that he has a dream. In that dream, the Maltese potato as a successful Maltese export is taken to new heights! It is a dream to which he has a right to aspire! And if he can dream it, he has youth in his favour to fully achieve it!!

Not the same can be said for the director of the video!

Derby Potato Promo
Derby Potato Promo



Malta’s Elfin Kingdom

It was bound to be an elfin Christmas. Tradition has always depicted Santa Claus and elves together but this year, it was all in the air. Maybe it was the added magic of the film, The Hobbit.

Over the years, elves have been used a lot of times in branding and promotion. Indeed some elves have become products touted in their own regard. Just one example is ‘The Elf on the Shelf’, a type of puppet that you can place in different positions and use as a decoration or a toy. Then there are thousands of books and stories, and naturally films evoking the mythical beings.

The Elf on the Shelf Product
The Elf on the Shelf Product

This season, I started counting local ‘elf appearance’ as soon as I saw the first elf around and I was right to do a tally, because low and behold, some of the major local companies stamped their Christmas advertising and promotion with elves.

I have nothing against the fairy and elf kingdom and indeed to this day I still enjoy the characters.  But there is something in marketing that says ‘Differentiate thy product!’

When several companies are using the same theme or idea, it is very much like everyone singing the same song and banter to promote different and sometimes even competing products.   One elf too many, and the elf idea will no longer be the idea that highlights and makes the product distinct from the rest!  In fact there is a point when things start becoming confusing!

My list of elves this year has come to include the following major firms:

  • I loved last year’s GS Superstore elf and along with the wonderful promotion of money tokens it was a success so I think it was just natural to roll it out again. After all the GS Superstore elf is indeed the best dressed and cutest elf around!

    GS Superstore Promotion featuring the elf
    GS Superstore Promotion featuring the elf
  • Vodafone opted for cartoonish elves, girls and boys, and projected them in an impish fashion, peppering its message in different media with these creatures.
    Vodafone Malta Website, screenshot depicting the Elves
    Vodafone Malta Website, screenshot depicting the Elves
  • Melita too has its own elf.  He does appear to be rather overworked and stressed, all in all, a rather weathered elf to deliver the message about its products and promotions for the season.

    Melita Cable Elf - screenshot from website
    Melita Cable Elf - screenshot from website
  • The last elf to catch my eye and worthy of mention here is the BOV elf. When I first saw the advert I was not sure what the barber elf was really out to say. To be honest I did not even realise that it was a BOV ad.  I only figured out that it was a BOV ad after seeing a snapshot of the ad on a bus shelter and later checked out the BOV website at home and discovered that the main message is about a competition in conjunction with the use of BOV cards.

    BOV Barber Elf - screenshot from BOV website
    BOV Barber Elf - screenshot from BOV website

I’m pretty sure that many spotted elves on other brochures and leaflets that came through the letterbox but the above are the ones who were engaged to whirl enchantment in some of the major advertising campaigns in Malta.

I’m hoping that all in all, these elves managed to weave their magic well for the companies and their antics generated the expected return. After all sacking an elf might be a bit more tricky ;)

Mobile Marketing

If mobile technology has changed completely the way we communicate, it is also changing  the way that companies promote their products.   It is no longer a matter of an SMS sent to a handset, it is a more elaborate form of ‘communication’ with the smart phone owner.

Mobile applications are being considered by companies as prime ways of bringing services and brand experience to the customer.  Through applications, mobile owners can  communicate,  access information, get services, make orders and bookings and also entertain themselves.

Mobile is so much more of a channel. It  is more than TV because video is available, it is more than computer because we carry the mobile around at all times and naturally it remains a communication device.  However mobile marketing planning is also challenging as this requires thinking about the variety of handsets and devices out there. Thus the development of Apps needs careful considerations.

One of the first companies who are making mobile marketing the cornerstone of their strategy is Coca Cola. Coca Cola yesterday announced that it is investing in the development of Apps that will be help in the promotion of its products.  Read the full article about Coca Cola at Marketing Week.



On their Best Behaviour….

We all love spokespersons for brands. The endorsement of brands by prominent people – be they business people, sports heroes, singers, actors and the like – draws our attention to the brand.

Somehow in our minds associating these people to brands tends to endear the brand to the consumers.

So what about the celebrities themselves?

Misconduct by celebrities has a rebound affect and today Marketing Weeks runs an article about how Tiger Woods’ personal life makes him one of the riskiest brand ambassador.

Read the full article from here:

Apple’s Back to School Marketing

There’s very little that Apple does which does not ‘scream’ Marketing in 360 degrees manner.  It is not just the innovative adverts that have been synonymous with the company and the products that are a hallmark in their respective fields.

A simple look at their ‘Back to School’ enewsletter  resounds of solid marketing principles like the selling of accessories that goes hand in hand with their main products  – the ipad, ipod, iphone and the MacBook.  The whole thing has been developed with the real consumer in mind, the student who is going back to college and nothing has been left to chance and this student has 3 specific needs:  stuff needed at the desk (like printers, docking stations and laptop stands); stuff needed on the go (like bags, cases and even locks!!) and stuff needed for fun (like headphones, speakers, and the like).

Back to School eNewsletter by Apple (Source of the above screenshot: Email by Apple, August 2011) 

This is the bit I admire most – Apple leaves nothing to chance.   It is not just a matter of an after-thought but everything from the quality of the backpacks (Hurley Barra exclusive to Apple store)  to the fashion colours of the watchbands and headphones everything  seems to have been perfectly chosen or designed.

And this is only the bit about the actual products that are available on sale. The newsletter  itself has a very attractive layout with different sections for different needs that the student might have.  It gives prominence to the offer that Apple is running, and ensures that this offer gets the most out of social media by offering quick links for the reader to share on Facebook and Twitter.

eNewsletter showing different sections aimed at different needs (Source of the above screenshot: Email by Apple, August 2011)



Advertising Regulation

Sometimes marketers go overboard with the message. Too much enthusiasm, too much imagination and too much stretching of the ideas and concepts can result in a misleading advert that then falls under the scrutiny of the Advertising Standards Authority.

Today Marketing Week, carries an article about Birds Eye’s frozen food ads, which compares frozen and fresh vegetables and states that frozen vegetables have more vitamins than the fresh ones. The advert had to be pulled in after the rebuke by the Advertising Standards Authority.

Read the full article from here:


Marketing by the Hour

As the London riots disrupt the standard pace of London life, tourism bodies and marketing organisations are keeping a watchful eye especially because  they know that such activities can effect the perception of potential visitors for the London Olympics and the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee (approximately a year away).

VisitBritain has just pulled out the video that was part of the campaign preparing the way for these important events, which in themselves are a tourist attraction. reported that “Head of marketing Joss Croft said that it was not appropriate to run the campaign ahead of the news on showing images of rioting and looting in the UK.”

In such circumstances, is not just a matter of sticking to strategy that was planned months ago, but also a matter of keeping watch to ensure that the public out there is not getting two conflicting  message, one from the adverts and one from the news.

Read the full article from here: