By Jeanine Ibrahim
Eric Walrabenstein's main entrepreneurial mission in life is to make you feel better. He's a former Army Officer, turned San Francisco-based 'dot-com' executive, who's now a professional wellness guru. He's sending his latest venture straight to your front door in a package called BetterBox.
It’s a subscription-based service with a twist: “Almost all subscription boxes are really constellated around shipping stuff, whether it's for your face, your dog or your spouse," Walrabenstein says. "But BetterBox really is about the activities.”
Each BetterBox is built around a theme, such as gratitude, mindfulness, creativity or abundance. It comes with 21 daily deeds and a few fun items that complement the activities. As users complete a task, they move closer toward achieving the box’s goal of gratitude, mindfulness, etc. -- and ultimately, toward feeling better. The idea is to "delight people by leveraging their natural affinity to have a physical product in their hands," Walrabenstein says, instead of just being told what to do.
It’s an astute spin on the booming trend of subscription-based commerce. Walrabenstein’s business stands out, in part, because it lives on a unique website: www.BetterBox.life. (That’s ‘dot-life’ -- a nod to the lives that Walrabenstein seeks to positively impact -- instead of ‘dot-com.’)
Walrabenstein, who’s worked in marketing for more than two decades, spoke with Name.Kitchen about the science and psychology behind naming and branding a product -- and about why he chose a “not-com” for his latest endeavor.
How exactly does BetterBox work?
When you get your BetterBox, you get information about the importance of the theme, together with a collection of boutique-inspired gifts. You also get a code to activate the box online, and that starts the flow of the 21 deeds, which we email each morning.
So we merge the digital and analog worlds. We don’t overwhelm people with, “Here’s a box full of 21 things that you’ve got to do.” We strive to make the tasks really simple and easy so it fits in your daily life. For example, one deed from the Gratitude box includes a little gratitude touchstone that’s beautifully carved. We ask you to go to a place for which you’re grateful, and then to leave the stone behind for a stranger to find.
How did you land on the name BetterBox?
We were looking for a term that resonated with people, but was broad enough to allow us to explore different aspects of helping people. The idea wasn’t just about happiness or stress or any one thing. It’s about getting better.
So the name BetterBox allows us to explore getting better via communication, better via relationships, better via our own expression, better via gratitude … and on and on and on. The name also has legs for brand extension. We have in the works a BetterBox kids version and a BetterBox couples version, so we can begin to tap into other populations.
What in your life has inspired this mission to help people feel better?
I spent about eight years in the military and then I moved to San Francisco to get into the communications and marketing world. The combination of pressures from the military and daily life created significant stressors that were affecting me. So I studied Zen meditation and yoga, and started teaching it on nights and weekends in addition to my regular work.
Long story short, I was the chief operating officer of an Internet company that ended during the “dot-com” mushroom cloud right around 2000. I was at a crossroads: “Do I want to start another Internet company, or do I want to do this yoga thing full-time?” That led me to get in my car and drive until I ended up in Phoenix, Arizona.
And then what happened?
I opened a wellness center called Yoga Pura that’s become a type of research and development center for us. Unlike most yoga studios, we don’t just focus on postures. We work with people who have stress conditions, and more in the mental and emotional sphere, to help them live their happiest, most empowered lives.
We’ve been experimenting with using proven tools and techniques to reach people beyond the the local radius of our center. Literally millions of people can benefit tangibly from lessons we’ve learned, from this ancient wisdom we’ve repurposed in a way that makes sense for them in their everyday lives. That’s the genesis of BetterBox.
How vital is your website to the business of BetterBox?
It’s crucial. We’re nowhere without the website. The product isn’t available in retail outlets, nor is it available through resellers or other suppliers. So it is the chokepoint, if you will, for the whole business. Everything that we do regarding our marketing, content marketing, social media and the product sales revolves around the website.
Why did you choose the ‘dot-life’ [.life] domain for the website?
The big reason we chose ‘dot-life’ is that in marketing and psychology, there is a term called “pattern interrupt.” It’s something that’s a bit different enough to make people pause and take notice. So that, combined with the fact that what we’re doing is all about improving people’s lives, made ‘dot-life’ a pretty obvious and good move for us. BetterBox.com could be a box manufacturer, for all we know. ‘Dot-life’ pushed our product forward in the right direction to anyone who might not have heard about us. And there’s kind of a gee-whiz, cool quality reaction to the ‘dot-life’ URL that we find is helpful to us.
Why is a URL so important to a product and business nowadays?
The name and the URL are almost interchangeable. You listen to people talk about products. Oftentimes, they’re calling the product by the name of the website. So if your URL is significantly different from the product or name, you have two marketing challenges. People must remember the name and then how to find it. So making them mutually supporting eases the work required to reach the consciousness of the consumer.
Why isn't there a mention of yoga, or even the written word "yoga," on the boxes or website?
We're able to broaden our reach and help more people this way. A lot of BetterBox subscribers might not ever step foot in a yoga studio. I've been doing marketing since 1992. It's absolutely crucial to lead with a term or concept that's going to resonate with people in the way in which your product is ultimately going to be used. People have come to understand yoga as a series of postures. The yoga teachings that we use to make people happier only tangentially relate to the postures. It’s very important to us that our customers are clear on what they’ll be getting. You won’t find a yoga posture sequence in your BetterBox.
What response have you received with BetterBox?
We’re doing pretty well. We shipped our first box in July . We don’t publically disclose the size of our subscription base, but we’re projecting to have between 35,000 and 50,000 by the end of the year.
Check out the goods inside these boxes, and learn more about this business, by visiting the website www.BetterBox.life.