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Unboxed Brands Podcast and Transcript


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Marketing Insights Podcast

March 17, 2022


Shanita Akintonde (00:08):

Hi, this is Shanita Akintonde, professor, author, and career coach. I invite you to join me for this very special edition of my Marketing Insights podcast series, entitled Unboxed Brands.

            First, allow me to share a little secret. I'm obsessed with the reality program called Unboxed by Nikki Chu. According to an article that appeared in Essence Magazine, a publication that is a big plate in my fashion media diet, in a piece entitled, Celebrity Designer Nikki Chu Takes Home From Drab to Fab on the New Season of Unboxed, written by Danielle Pointdujour, on October 20, 2020, "When it comes to home design, everyone who is anyone knows that there's only a few folks to call, and Nikki Chu is one of them." The article continues, "Chu is a celebrity interior designer, author, and trendsetter that has always been the go-to for celebs looking to take their home decor to the next level." Level up, level up, level up.

            During Season One of her reality show, Chu curated interiors for notable names like Tyra Banks, Tisha Campbell, and Gabrielle Union, among others. For Season Two of Marketing Maestros, Chu transitioned her transformation in favor of four lucky fans. These Shamrock Shingled Shamrock Shakes, Happy St. Patty's Day, get to see their spaces shift from outdated dysfunctionality to super duper super interiors. I borrowed the phrase "super duper" from my last podcast, Super Duper Super Bowl Brands. Go back and take a listen, but let's keep on wrapping this special edition of my Marketing Insights podcast series entitled Unboxed Brands.

            See, on the series Unboxed by Nikki Chu, delighted innocents are paired peoples, couples, significant others, some type of partnered pairs. Each designated duo chooses between two mystery boxes, and each squared station contains a curated set of Chu inspired samples. A few examples include things like a swirl of pearls on a lay string, glossy globes of triangulated trinkets, a swath of silk linen, an antique anklet, or swabs of tricolored cotton balls, things like that. Once the pairs of twos choose, Chu shoos the reluctant residents out of their abode. She then composes her team of fellow designers, painters, carpenters, lighting experts, the same group of folks that help me get ready for my Zoom calls every day.

            But, in this case, Chu's Chu Chu Squad help upgrade her client's space in... Get this... Just three days. Unboxed, by Nikki Chu marries drama and design, balanced with bodaciousness, leveling up with love. There are several things that brands can learn from this fab female and others like her, particularly if they have reached the maturity phase of the product life cycle, and particularly during the month of March, which is also Women's History Month. If I unpack Unboxed by Nikki Chu as a brand, I would reiterate a line given by one of her satisfied customers. "It takes a person who may not even know who they are, and she makes them know who they are."

            The show takes a consumer problem, in this case, the need for a designed rehab in the worst way, and helps them feel that something is definitely missing gap. Think, "Nachos without no cheese, fried chicken sans the hot sauce, and Ben Affleck without J-Lo." In other words, "No flavor, y'all." In this special edition of my Marketing Insights podcast series, Unboxed Brands, I will have a call to action for all of you, my fellow marketers. I suggest you take a page from the Unboxed setup, and think outside of the box. I also suggest you look beyond the tried and true ways of doing things, and look for creative, unconventional, downright disruptive tactics to get into the hearts and minds of key demographics, or better yet, untapped ones. And interestingly enough, all of my inspirations for unboxing brands, which means removing them from safe, same old, same old, dread induced, can't budge, stuck in the mud, with droopy the dog and Paul Rudd.

            Hey, I actually like Paul Rudd. It's just that his name was the first one that I could think of that rhymed with mud. These may come from members of marginalized groups, and specifically women and people of color. So, my advice is for businesses to stop it already by resorting to stereotypical types of ways, when it comes to contributions that can be made by women, that range from brands to business to politics to the Olympics. The influence of women, particularly Black women, spans from Super Bowl stages to film as well as television screens, both out front and behind the scenes. Let's look at a few examples. First, there's Comedy Central. The network announced a newly formed partnership that links The Daily Show with Trevor Noah and a Black owned, women run business called the Lolly Lolly Ceramics Shop. The Milwaukee based business has developed a limited run collection of 100 mugs that feature the Daily Show logo, matte black ceramic, and creatively shaped handles. According to Comedy Central producer Britney Radocha, "The Daily Show is expanding its support of people from marginalized groups to highlight underrepresented voices in a creative way."

            Speaking of highlighting unrepresented voices, let's shift over to Shonda Rhimes. This amazing African American television writer and producer, and Time Magazine's 2022 TV's Greatest Person honoree, decided to depart a great gig at ABC. She wrote and produced an entire slate of top rated television hits for the television station including Grey's Anatomy, The Practice, How to Get Away With Murder, and Scandal. To move on to bigger and greener pastures, you see, when the mouse eared, owned media behemoth decided not to dedicate the requested tides to Rhimes, okay Marketing Maestros, now is the time for you to lean into your computer, phone, desktop, laptop, iPad, or wherever you listen to my Marketing Insights podcast, and get ready for me to spill some tea, y'all. ABC said, "No," to television's Wonder Woman's request for an additional free pass to Disneyland, which is ABC's parent company, by the way.

            So, Rhimes decided to tell them to stick her gig somewhere behind Mickey's ears, my words, not Rhimes'. What Rhymes did do, however, was to skip on over the Netflix, no doubt humming. (Singing.) Don't act like it's just me who enjoys riding the Tea Cups at Disney world. Well, whatever Rhimes is rhyming, she is on beat as she is already breaking another set of records, and I don't mean the musical kind. One of her creations, Bridgerton, which is a steamy, regency romance, has risen to the top spot as Netflix's Most Watched Original Show. You see? Netflix understood how to unbox their brand, and has been doing so quite successfully in recent years, I might add. I attribute a great deal of their success to their infusion of diversity principles, diversity of thought, diversity of programming, and diversity of the faces of those allowed to make key decisions behind the leaderboard.

            In addition to Rhimes, there are several other creators of color who have solidified the rise of the Netflix brand. I talk about another hit, Squid Game, a South Korean survival drama that launched on Netflix last year. In a previous podcast, entitled Everybody Was Squid Game Watching, go back and take a listen. But back to this podcast, Unboxed Brands, as an anecdote to the Rhimes story, it should be noted that after initial pushback... "We never do this," Rhimes was repeatedly told... She was handed the pass. However, it failed to work with her sister, her children, and nanny, when they all arrived at the park. I wonder if the ticket debacle was worth the millions of dollars in lost revenue and counting for ABC. I'm fairly certain that Mickey Mouse house network will rethink distribution policies for company perks in the future. And since we're on the topic of rethinking, let's circle back to the Barbie brand. As you know, from previous podcasts, the blonde bombshells maker, AKA Mattel, has made their fair share of mistakes.

            However, the company owns up to them, the first step to recovery. Kudos and Kool-Aid to them, particularly in reference to the launch of what the company calls, "The newest role model in our Inspiring Women series, dedicated to spotlighting heroes who paved the way for generations of girls to dream big and make a difference." In this case, the highlighted hero is none other than Ida B, Wells, an abolitionist, civil rights activist, journalist, and African American role model. Though Wells was a fighter, not a frolicker, and her position on the advancements of humanity were not for play-play, I considered this to be a slam dunk for the toy creator. I even shared my thoughts in a recent interview conducted by Kimberly Capella, staff reporter at the Columbia College Chicago Chronicle on February 17th, 2022, in an article entitled Mattel Celebrates Journalist, Civil Rights Activists, Ida B. Wells, With New Barbie: It's More Than a Doll, where I shared my perspective on the added significance of a child's playtime being influenced by a Civil Rights icon, and what imaginative possibilities are thereby awakened in that child.

            And keeping with the topic of "woke principles," in the final few minutes of this very special edition of my Marketing Insights podcast series, Unboxed Brands, allow me to share a few up to the minute updates regarding how many brands are rethinking their business in Russia, given its invasion of Ukraine. Among a growing list of businesses who are calling for a "pause for the cause" are Coca-Cola PepsiCo, Starbucks, and McDonald's, among others. According to an Ad Week piece entitled Coke, Pepsi, and Starbucks: Halt Business in Russia that's stated March 8th, 2022, the former three companies made their announcement within three hours of each other. McDonald's further added that it was "suspending operations of its 847 Russian based restaurants, though continuing to pay its 62,000 employees in the country."

            Supporters ask that these companies take things even further and cease all Russian operations. They cite other corporations who have done just that. Another tenant of unboxed brands is that they are not solely reliant on product differentiation. They instead understand the importance of value differentiators, the things that reinforce their core principles, even when it hits their bottom line. The Ad Week piece reiterates this premise with the following statement, "PepsiCo's exit from Russia has cultural significance as it was once one of the few Western products allowed in the Soviet Union prior to its collapse."

            According to PepsiCo's CEO Ramon Laguarta, in response to this issue to his brand's staff, "We have been operating in Russia for more than 60 years, and we have a place in many Russian homes. PepsiCo entered the market at the height of The Cold War, and helped create common ground between the United States and the Soviet union. However, given the horrific events occurring in Ukraine, we are announcing the suspension of the sale of Pepsi Cola and our global brands in Russia, including Seven Up and Miranda. We will also be suspending capital investments and all advertising in promotional activities in Russia."

            That's an unboxed brand. Just like the beautiful cupcake I just removed from my sprinkles box, let's recap. Unboxed brands take a page from the program Unboxed by Nikki Chu. They marry drama and design balanced with bodaciousness and the reality check needed to remain rooted in fundamental principles that lie at the core of their company values and beliefs, the cost for which may be daunting on a surface level, but the value of which is immeasurable just like the time and energy I dedicate to each and every one of you, dear listeners, in each and every one of my Marketing Insights podcast. Until next time, which will be our best time, this is Shanita Akintonde, professor, author, career coach, and marketing she-ro, signing off. If you enjoy listening to these podcasts, be sure to subscribe on Stitcher, iTunes, or Google Play, and like them wherever you hear them. Connect with me on LinkedIn at professor Shanita Akintonde, or follow me on Twitter at _shanitaspeaks.


About the Author

Marketing Maven Shanita Akintonde personifies passion and purpose. With over two decades of strategically-honed leadership experience as a professor and marketing executive, Shanita has transitioned over 10,000 students from her classroom to the boardroom. She is an author, newspaper columnist, and certified professional speaker who serves as President of ShanitaSpeaks, LLC, a company that energizes clients to predict marketing trends, identify niche audiences, and effectively communicate measurable outcomes, all of which she spotlights as host of the #1-ranked Marketing Insights podcast series. Learn more about Shanita at:

Profile Photo of Shanita Baraka Akintonde