Our Great Redbox Idea (#redboxfail)

Posted by on Feb 10, 2015 in Case Studies, Ideation, Perception, Strategy | 2 Comments

Red Box

Ideation is an important part of what we do as an agency. Taken literally, ideation is “the formation of ideas,” but at Kodis it is something much more. The way we approach problems and implement solutions is displayed in all the work we do, and cannot be separated from any project on which we work. Further, it’s an important part of our company culture. We enjoy sitting around and talking about how we can strategically implement technology in creative ways.

As a company, we’re constantly going through our ideation process. Not only do we generate our own ideas for internal projects (like this blog), we also take our clients’ ideas, chew them up, digest them, and expel pure gold (just like the wonderful yeast who give us the alcohol in our beer). Did you know we make our own beer at Kodis? I bet you did not. More on that in the future.


Let’s give an example!

One of our clients is Redbox, for whom we built their Canadian website when they launched in the “the Great White North.” While we were building that project for them, I became interested in the statistics of how the discs move around an area. Each disc has to have a unique identifier so that when a user returns the disc, the system knows which account to credit with the returned disc. My biggest question was, “how far has this disc traveled after Redbox put it in its original kiosk?” Wouldn’t it be interesting if there were a “Where’s George” for Redbox DVDs?

Then, we started spitballing ideas. What if I were going on vacation to Alaska, could I bring a Redbox DVD along to watch on the plane and return it in Alaska? Could I accrue miles for that?

Maybe I travel several times every month and every time I get on a plane, I grab a Redbox to watch. Could all of my miles be added together for the most cumulative miles traveled by multiple discs?

How about being the “Mayor” of a certain Redbox kiosk? If I rent from one location more than anyone else, can I be appointed the mayor of that location?

Then we thought, “let’s get social with it.” What if the Redbox phone App could read QR codes? Then, if I invite all my friends over to watch a movie, they could all “check-in” by scanning a QR code on a disc and I could get points for my friends watching a movie with me.

What about a scavenger hunt? Redbox could set the parameters of the scavenger hunt and send clues about what location or movie they were trying to get people to find. You could play against a set of friends, or a group of users who live in the same area as you.

I’m sure that Redbox already tracks all the locations where I’ve used a credit card to get discs. Let’s use that to award the person who has visited the most unique Redbox locations.

Or, during the Academy Awards, can I send a challenge to my friends to see who can watch the most Oscar-nominated movies and then see who can correctly guess the most winners?

Just writing this post, I get excited about all the possibilities of games that I could play with my friends just by doing something I already do… rent Redbox DVDs.


Strategy gets involved.

Then we started to strategize why Redbox would want to do this. It was a 3-fold answer. 1) Gamifying an action that customers are already doing. 2) Creating a virtual community of users who are engaging with the brand via a website (this is key, which we’ll discuss in a minute). 3) Starting an affinity reward system to further give positive reinforcement to their customers for doing what they were already doing: renting Redbox discs.

Gamification has been used by so many companies and in such a variety of applications that there are creative agencies whose raison d’etre is to help companies gamify. This is because gamification has been proven, time and again, to increase the throughput of customers. Giving Redbox this platform could have transformed the company.

By creating a community of highly-engaged customers who are comfortable using a website, Redbox (potentially) could have avoided this recent headline: Redbox Instant streaming video service shutting down on October 7th. Why can we make this bold claim? While, I visit Redbox kiosks frequently, I use Netflix more. It’s not because I think that Netflix’s library was better (though, honestly, I never checked out what Redbox offered), or that their user experience is better (I have a lot of issues with both the Netflix website and mobile app). It’s simply because I didn’t want to pay another monthly subscription to an unknown quantity when the service I was using was adequate. And, I’ll bet I’m not the only consumer out there who thinks that way.

If Redbox would have “bought” our idea, they could have used the community they had built to onboard those users to their video streaming service. I’m reminded of a quote (conveniently from a movie), “If you build it, they will come.” Well, not if they don’t have a good reason to! Because they made no steps to encourage the users of the kiosks (like me) to move over to the streaming service, they had no hope of competing with the likes of Netflix, Hulu, Amazon, Apple, and YouTube.

Affinity rewards systems, like gamification platforms, are successful BECAUSE THEY WORK! After we worked with Redbox, they gave us a stack of free rentals as an additional thank-you for working with them. Since I started using Redbox, this is the only reward I have received from them. And, I didn’t get that reward for using Redbox, only for being a vendor that they hired for a quick one-off project. They haven’t incentivized me to use their product for more than the occasional “pizza and a movie” night with my wife.

Seth, our Creative Director, has a slightly different perspective than I do. Probably because he consumes more movies than I do and he uses the app on his iPhone much more than I do, Seth quite frequently gets messages to the app with “BOGO” offers and other deals. So, in this sense, Redbox is rewarding him for their loyalty. However, I believe my point still stands. Having a larger system and community would have given Redbox the opportunity to give out more rewards to their users.



So, why did it fail? It’s hard for us to say as we aren’t within Redbox and, after our initial pitch, never heard back. I have a few ideas, though. First, we are not employees of Redbox and it was hard to actually get through to the channels necessary for us to gain traction with our idea. Second, when we actually got a meeting it was to a very large group of people and over a teleconference. We couldn’t see our audience and know which ideas were working and which were missing the mark; we couldn’t address any concerns we could have picked up on through visual cues. Third, Redbox has a high employee turnover rate. This doesn’t just come from our experience, but in talking with people who have worked at Redbox over the years. Very quickly (within a few months) after our first pitch meeting, our main point-of-contact no longer worked with them.

The biggest reason that I can think of, though, is that Redbox didn’t value us or our idea highly enough. This comes down to perception. We were originally hired as a vendor (read: tool) who, once we had completed the task we were hired to complete, were easily discarded. Just like Seth’s business acquaintance who had a problem after asking his client “the question,” we were perceived as being nothing more than an asset to be used in one instance, which is a shame.

I still think that the ideas we developed for Redbox could have transformed the product they offered and the public perception of the company. I think that it could have made Redbox relevant in a fairly crowded streaming video space. And, I think I would be a much more loyal Redbox user if the platform actually existed. Mostly, though, I still want to know how far this Redbox DVD has traveled.

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  1. jantzie
    February 11, 2015

    I love the Where’s George idea for discs! That’s a fun one. I’ve actually wondered where it’s been myself, or whom else has watched that particular disc. As an aside, I sometimes like to put money or notes in my envelopes for the sorters. 🙂

    • Kit Weber
      February 13, 2015

      Angie, I love that idea! I would love to see the reaction of the person who finds it!


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