Campaigns: Retail - Firebox has 'crap' service wrapped up

Campaign: Launch of CrapWrap
PR team: In-house
Timescale: December 2008
Budget: Time costs only

Online gift shop celebrated its tenth birthday in 2008. In order to mark the occasion and show customers it had not lost its sense of humour it decided to launch a new and unusual take on gift wrapping. The aim was to get people talking, emphasise the sites's quirkiness and amuse people in the run-up to Christmas.


- To position as a creative, quirky online retainer with a sense of humour

- To create non-product-focused media buzz around Firebox, both online and offline

- To drive traffic to the website in the run-up to Christmas.

Strategy and plan

Christmas is the busiest time of year for, and almost half of its annual revenue is generated in the final quarter of the year. Every year its major PR campaign centres around targeting Christmas gift guides in the UK media. However, on top of product placement, the store also wanted to generate coverage in sections of media it would not normally reach.

The site's technical director and co-founder, Tom Boardman, came up with the idea of 'CrapWrap', a gift-wrapping service with a difference. Instead of beautiful presentation, CrapWrap's unique selling point was giving customers a truly badly wrapped finish, including overuse of offensive brown sticky-tape, ripped wrapping paper and a CrapWrap sticker.

The team searched for and selected suitably garish gift wrap and designed a trademarked CrapWrap sticker with a coffee stain imprint. Members of the gift wrapping team at the Firebox warehouse were all trained in how to CrapWrap.

The service was launched on 28 November 2008 and a press release was issued announcing its launch.

Measurement and evaluation

The CrapWrap story appeared in national newspapers including the Mail on Sunday, The Observer, The Times, the Daily Mail, The Daily Telegraph, the Daily Star Sunday and the Daily Sport. GMTV interviewed staff at the Firebox warehouse and radio stations including BBC Scotland and international radio covered the story.

Online the story appeared on numerous tech and national newspaper websites. Regional and trade press also covered the story.

The story was heavily commented upon on the Mail on Sunday's website as well as on the Firebox blog, where customers enthused about the new service.


The wide range of media picking up on the CrapWrap story meant Firebox successfully moved away from product-based coverage. The campaign also got people talking online, with comments made on Twitter and on the Firebox blog. All the comments focused on the unusual, quirky and humorous nature of the service.

More than 1,000 gifts were CrapWrapped at the Firebox warehouse over the Christmas period and Firebox has now extended the CrapWrap campaign to Hearts CrapWrap for Valentine's Day.


- Gill Gould, MD, Carswell Gould

We all strive to give our clients a unique personality to differentiate them from their competitors. This is even more important for e-tailers that have no face and strive to show a human element of their business.

So it's a big risk to create a personality for your company that associates it with 'crap'. But tough times call for bold strategies and Firebox pulled it off with its quirky and humorous campaign.

It would never have worked for a company such as Marks & Spencer or Thorntons but as Firebox's target market was men with a sense of humour and passion for gadgets, it was destined to work.

I was surprised there wasn't any coverage in lads' mags, as I would have thought this would have been perfect for them. However, it was impressive to see pick-up in less obvious and more 'highbrow' media outlets such as the Mail on Sunday, The Times and The Observer.

For an inexpensive campaign, it appears to have provided a solid return on investment, putting the Firebox name out there, driving traffic to the site and creating more than 1,000 orders. No-one could argue that the Firebox team didn't achieve what it set out to as it showed the site has not lost its sense of humour after ten years.

This is a gutsy idea and I'd urge any PR companies reading this to take it as an example and be bold in these tough economic times, rather than playing it safe and running the even bigger risk of being forgotten.

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