The Most Famous Piece of Corrugated Cardboard Ever

A portion of the star wars early bird certificate, maybe the most famous piece of corrugated cardboard in the history of retail

The year is 1977. Fleetwood Mac is blasting through the speakers of Trans Ams everywhere, Star Wars takes the box office by storm, and the Kenner toy company is sitting on the golden egg of a lifetime–and they almost crushed it. Here’s the true story of how a piece of corrugated cardboard changed the face of marketing history.


May the Corrugated Cardboard Be With You


Months earlier in 1976, The Kenner toy company caught a seemingly lucky break. A small subsidiary of General Mills, Kenner’s usual fare was squirt guns and bubbles. But a major toy company, Mego, had passed on the Star Wars license to produce toys. Kenner, the Little Toy Company That Could, managed to acquire it.


Huge mistake for Mego. Potential mistake for Kenner.


Why? Just because Kenner picked up the license didn’t mean they believed in Star Wars. It seems impossible now, but the original Star Wars movie could barely get off the runway back in the day.


But once it did, it exploded.


The late May blockbuster left Kenner scrambling to produce Star Wars toys in time for the holiday season. Even by today’s standards, that’s a tough deadline. At some point, the small company realized they couldn’t meet the demand by Christmas. But did they give up? Not a chance. Instead they turned to a piece of customized corrugated cardboard into a legend.


The Star Wars Early Bird Certificate Was Born.

custom corrugated cardboard packaging used in the marketing of popular star wars toys

A member of the Kenner team had an idea. Instead of letting the ball drop, they created a corrugated cardboard box. Most likely an E-Flute wall structure–the standard in luxury display packaging–Kenner’s Early Bird Certificate doubled as a display stand. The idea was that kids could mail in the certificate and, when the toys were ready, Kenner would send out the first wave of toys, packaged in a thermoformed plastic tray. Then, when the package came, kids would have a spot ready to display them.


And they sold it.


Hero Complex’s Jay West calls it the “the most coveted empty box in the history of retail.” To think that anything could replace an action figure under the tree in a child’s eyes seems unlikely, let alone a hunk of corrugated cardboard. But it did. In fact, the anticipation of staring at the placeholder while waiting for the figurines to arrive made the prize even sweeter. Exclusive mail-away action figures would be the cornerstone of the Star Wars toys for the next 30 years.


Maybe Kenner’s whole plan wouldn’t fly today. But there’s a lot of takeaways from this story. Not giving up? Of course. Taking chances? Sure. But, above all, it shows the creativity stored in that “coveted empty box.” That’s the power of corrugated cardboard. It’s durable, environmental, economical, and endlessly engineerable. Just a simple piece of cardboard changed the face of product licensing forever. Think what it could change next.


You might be wondering what parents paid for that precious corrugated cardboard back in the day. $7.99. But what are folks willing to spend on it today?

the infamous customized corrugated cardboard on ebay, glossy laminate



A History Lesson in Marketing

Marketing is an activity and process for creating, communicating, delivering, and exchanging offerings that have value. It is how products and services gain a voice for customers, clients, and businesses to know they exist. Marketing is an aspect of business that has been around for many years. Have you ever wondered how it all started though? Marketing is based on the technologies of the era, because those technologies is how marketing messages were pushed through channels. Technology has evolved rapidly and continues to change everyday. We have things like social media and Internet today that is a must use tool for marketers, but it didn’t start out that way.

If we take a step way back to the Stone Age, messages were communicated by cave paintings and carvings. Since then, our lives started to evolve and stepping towards advancement. The Renaissance Era in the 15th century produced learning and research as we stepped out of the Dark Ages. We then entered the Age of Discovery, and in 1450 is when things started to change. The Gutenberg press was created, allowing for type to be movable, which is where mail order catalogs got their start. The Industrial Revolution in the 1800s increased demand for manufacturers to market their goods. The 1900s helped develop the marketing concept as science and technology started to change. Competition, communication, advertising, and branding become key factors in business. The focus on selling also grew. Direct marketing surfaced in the 1950s and telemarketing in the 1970s.

The 1990s were characterized by the boom of the Internet, which led to a vast amount of marketing platforms. The early 2000s sparked the launches of Wikipedia, Apple iTunes Store, and Gmail. YouTube, Facebook, and Twitter followed. Today we are in the midst of the social media and mobile era. How ironic is it that we started out writing on walls to communicate and now we continue to do just that only not literally this time. The future holds potential for more advances in technology, which will be interesting to see what will happen next.

A Lesson About Packaging

Packaging is what we use to enclose and protect products for distribution, storage, and use. It acts like a coordinated system of preparing products for sale and end use. Packaging also is a tool that provides information for consumers. The way packaging informs helps marketers  send messages to consumers and help portray the benefits a product provides. Packaging also provides security, convenience, and containment.

Have you ever wondered how packaging got its start? The first packaging used was made of natural materials and came in the form of baskets, bota bags, wooden boxes, pottery vases, wooden barrels, and woven bags. Paper used in packaging can be dated back to 1035, when vegetables and spices were wrapped in paper after they were sold to consumers. In the early 19th century is when iron and tin plated steel were being used to make cans. Also at that time is when paperboard cartons and corrugated fiberboard boxes were first introduced. Advancements made in the 20th century included transparent cellophane wraps and panels on cartons. These helped to improve food safety. Aluminum an other types of plastics were introduced as well.

Packaging provides many benefits for protecting and securing products. What started many years ago as a way to transport vegetables and spices, has grown into a multi-billion dollar industry. Packaging has made many innovations along the way and it will be interesting to see how it progresses further.

Past, Present, and Future of 3-Ring Binders

Binders have always been an integral component to any office, home, or educational facility. They allow for papers and other materials to be organized and kept in one place. Binders create a tidy look and presentation, also allowing possessions to be protected. Binders have been around for many years. What was once an organizational tool in the 1850’s is still an organizational tool today. Let’s take a look at the past, present, and future of binders.

In 1854, patents were filed for both the 2-ring and 3-ring binders by a man from Rhode Island named Henry T. Sisson. He realized a specific problem people were experiencing. The problem was that people had loose leaf paper but no idea how to organize or store it. So Henry began designing to come up with a solution for this problem. That is where the ring binder started. The first binder had 2 rings and then evolved to 3-rings. The first 3-ring binders were covered with heavy cardboard like binding and the metal parts were made of cold rolled steel. It was not until 1899 that binders were actually for sale. Chicago Binder and File Company was one of the first companies to do so.

Today, binders can be found everywhere. They come in many different shapes, sizes, materials, and designs to fit any need. Ring metals can be shaped in a round ring, D-ring, and angle D-ring. Binder sizes can range from as little at 1/2″ to over 3″ capacity. There are also a lot of materials that binders can be made out of. Poly, vinyl, and recycled materials are the most popular choices. Binders can also come in many different colors and patterns, and can also be customized with foil stamping and screen printing to meet specific needs and tastes.

Binders will continue to be a useful component for organization and storage. We will also see an increase in eco-friendly binders which are binders made out of recycled materials and soy based inks. This new type of binder allows for a more sustainable option for organizational needs. The trend towards customization will also be prevalent with binders as well.

What started almost 160 years ago as a way to store loose leaf paper has grown into an organizational phenomenon and continues to be a popular choice for storing papers and other materials.