Cartoon characters take over the Amazon shipping box

June 8, 2015 04:44 PM

The world's largest online retailer is allowing a brand to take over its packages with ads for the first time. Inc. struck a deal with Universal Studios to ship bright yellow, Minions-branded boxes to promote the July 10 release of the kids’ film by Illumination Entertainment.

Starting on Memorial Day weekend, select Amazon fulfillment centers began shipping customer orders in boxes featuring Minions characters Kevin, Stuart and Bob, and the campaign will run until July 10, Amazon says. The boxes span a range of sizes, and may be used to ship DVDs, small toys, electronics or sporting goods. An Amazon spokeswoman says this is the first time the e-retailer has offered a brand a full takeover of its delivery box.

Neither nor Universal Studios would comment on the financial terms of the deal, but Universal says it approached Amazon with the idea, not vice versa. “We recognized that the boxes are something very familiar with Americans,” says Universal’s executive vice president of digital marketing Doug Neil. “We thought the Minions characters could help to create surprise and delight among those customers who might think, ‘Wait, I ordered something from Amazon and it’s coming in a yellow box?’”

Universal is using Amazon assets in other ways to promote the movie, including through ad placements on Amazon’s subsidiary movie and television information site and through Kindle e-readers, Neil says. also has a dedicated Minions storefront at in which customers can purchase Minions toys, apparel and DVDs. Universal already sells a lot of Minion merchandise through, Neil says.

While it’s still early, an Amazon spokeswoman says the retailer is excited about the program and is “always open to experimenting with new, innovative ways to collaborate with brands on great, new customer experiences.”

E-commerce analysts are not ready to say whether this signals a new strategy on the part of Amazon, but most say it makes sense given that the sheer volume Amazon ships to consumers each day makes its boxes very valuable real estate.

ChannelAdvisor Corp., which helps online retailers sell their wares on marketplaces such as those operated by Amazon and eBay Inc., estimates that Amazon ships around four million items per day in the U.S. “Four million packages a day is a pretty significant reach and an interesting opportunity to get in front of the consumer,” says executive chairman Scot Wingo.

Most Amazon fulfillment centers contain their own cardboard production equipment, so the cost to produce boxes such as those promoting the Minions movie would only involve the additional cost of ink, according to Marc Wulfraat, a longtime Amazon observer and president of logistics consulting firm MWPVL International.

One analyst says that cost would likely be only two or three cents per box, which would be great for Amazon since the advertising revenue could help offset shipping costs. “Instead of printing what they have on their boxes now, they are printing a cartoon character. Big deal,” says Satish Jindel, president of SJ Consulting Group Inc., a transportation and logistics consulting firm.

Amazon is No. 1 in the Internet Retailer Top 500 Guide.




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