Growth Through Subscriptions for (Literally) Any Brand

One of the smartest ways to grow a brand is through subscriptions. But not in the mail-you-a-box-every-month way that many of us initially think. When applied creatively, subscriptions are relevant for every growing brand. 

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Subscriptions for disposable items with relatively short life cycles are a no-brainer. So too are subscription boxes, a category that literally created the rise of the subscription phenomenon in the back half of the last decade. And of course software brands discovered that subscription-based access was far more profitable than a one-time software sale. 

But what about every other brand? What about those who fall into the “disposable items” category but don’t think they can go beyond basic Amazon subscriptions? 

The answer lies in the problem your brand solves, and the passions it evokes in consumers. Let’s use two examples of brands who never thought a subscription was appropriate:

Burger King + Coffee

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Want to get more consumers to try your breakfast items and increase profitability in the morning hours?

Give them unlimited coffee, the lowest cost item on the entire menu, for just $5 a month.

It doesn’t really matter how many coffee subscriptions BK sells, nearly every single one will turn a profit from additional product sales. Suddenly the only “risk” is the marketing investment behind it and cannibilization from the (very low) number of consumers already hooked on BK’s coffee. 

The Lesson:

BK has given themselves a tangible path to breakfast growth by providing loss-leader value on a commodity subscription.

Protein Shakes

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Beyond consumers having a box delivered by Amazon monthly, there seems to be little use for subscription thinking for most beverage brands.

But a brand can ask, what lifestyle are we enabling? What results?

Sports-oriented protein shakes can create curated quarterly boxes for their most loyal consumers filled with swag, new products and items essential to an active lifestyle. For a protein shake with a weight loss message, allowing consumers to buy a box that arrives with a pedometer and other healthy gear is simple. This turns loyalists into advocates, proudly recommending you to their friends and family. This is consumer engagement and driving advocacy with your core users, something that won’t happen when the only swag they typically get from you is a receipt. 

The Lesson:

Subscriptions give you the opportunity to reinforce your lifestyle and product benefits with core users, driving their advocacy and recommendations to friends and family.

For brands looking to grow, subscriptions as the core of your business model are nice work…If you can get it. Dollar Shave Club showed the power of this in its overvalued $1B acquisition by Unilever. But for the rest of us, subscriptions when used effectively become a marketing channel that bolster your weakest link or exploit your greatest strength. For the creative among us, they should bring to life the essence of your brand’s proposition, andfor the pragmatic, they should solve a performance gap in sales.