Corus launches ‘Unboxed’ sampling program

Corus Entertainment has introduced a new sampling program, “Unboxed by Corus,” that is capitalizing on the growing social commerce trend and leverages the power of its media brands like Slice and HGTV as well as the media company’s robust influencer network.

The program will see Corus partner with brands to create sampling programs reflecting its various brands and their audience, such as “The Foodie Box” from Food Network Canada, “The Glam Box” from Slice, or the “Back to school box” from YTV.

Dervla Kelly, senior vice-president, marketing and so.da with Corus Entertainment, said that Unboxed by Corus brand partners will have the ability to leverage the company’s entire media ecosystem, from its various specialty channels and associated web and social properties, to its creator studio Kin Community.

A beauty brand, for example, could include a new lipstick in the box and then enlist Kin creators to try the product and create videos around it, while it could also be featured in editorial segments on the Slice TV channel or

“We’ve built these communities who are really interested in fashion and food and home and beauty, so there’s a very engaged, receptive audience for brands to extend [their reach],” said Kelly.

Corus is using its properties to drive would-be box recipients to a dedicated website that asks them to fill in basic questions such as name, address and gender, before presenting them with more detailed questions about personal preferences—such as whether they are a foodie, into home design and decorating, or a fashion lover.

By registering, consumers give Corus and brand partners permission to use the information to “curate content, promotions and offers that may be relevant.”

Product sampling has long been a staple in CPG companies’ marketing arsenal, but Unboxed by Corus layers in the media company’s brand authority and connection to consumers who are now willing to take action whenever they see a product or brand in the content they are watching, said Kelly.

“We have really strong [media] brands that people flock to because they really identify with those communities,” she said. “Our strength is in lifestyle, and what we’re seeing is that people don’t just want to come to be entertained, they want to buy. They’re on HGTV and they want to buy that light or that couch. The biggest question we get is ‘Where can I buy that?'”

While none of the boxes will contain couches, lots of CPG brands would be a good fit, and Kelly said that Unboxed by Corus could become a logical destination for brand partners in spaces as diverse as beverage alcohol, cannabis and entertainment. There is no set timetable for the boxes to be distributed, depending instead on advertiser participation.

Kelly said the program also reflects the continued rise of social commerce, a phenomenon that has gathered momentum during the pandemic. According to a March report from eMarketer, there will be 7.9 million social buyers in Canada this year, up from 6.9 million last year.

And in its 2021 “Future of Commerce” study, Shopify said that the pandemic “kick-started a behavioural shift” towards ecommerce that will be driven forward by young consumers. The study found that 28% of younger online shoppers had purchased via social media, compared to 20% of middle-aged online shoppers and just 8% of older consumers.

Kelly said that sampling brings together the online and offline worlds and addresses one of the biggest challenges arising out of social shopping: an inability to try a product before buying. “People are missing touching and experiencing physical products, and this program does that,” she said.

Corus said that “Unboxed by Corus” will also help it significantly boost its first-party data, increasingly important as tech giants like Google and Apple continue to place constraints on data collection.

“As our whole industry changes, I think more media companies are looking for new and different ways to connect with consumers and how they can use their assets in creative ways,” said Kelly. “I’m sure we’re going to see new and innovate products roll out from different organizations.”

Corus piloted the program with Church & Dwight’s Arm & Hammer Essentials Toothpaste brand last year, using five of its Kin influencers whose audiences matched the company’s target demo to “swipe up” to receive a sample. Corus said that 11,900 samples were claimed within 48 hours, prompting an order of 11,600 more.

“It really shows the power of creators,” said Kelly, who said that the program’s success was one of the reasons Corus decided to scale the program. “People are looking to them not just to be inspired but [for] where they can get a product.”

Traditional media companies like Corus have been experimenting with new revenue models as advertising increasingly migrates online, with Dervla saying that its collection of well-branded assets and access to data is a key benefit in moving into new areas such as this.

“Where it used to feel sometimes like legacy media companies were at a disadvantage, I feel we’re able to structure our assets in a really interesting way that’s been allowing us to compete and win business,” said Kelly.

Chris Powell