heats up stateside

When London-based gifts, games, and gadgets merchant Firebox launched a U.S.-based e-commerce beta site in early October, it did so without a multimillion-dollar splash. Instead it had San Francisco-based public-relations firm Sandbox Strategies hit the blogosphere to spread the word.

And the word did spread. Firebox managing director Christian Robinson says the company did more business in the U.S. in the two weeks after the launch than it had in all of 2005.

“We wanted to bring the Firebox brand to an environment that our core customer is using,” Robinson explains. “We can see through Nielsen/NetRatings which blogs are sending traffic our way.”

Bill Linn, a partner with Sandbox Strategies, says his firm looked for blogs popular with techies and pop-culture enthusiasts, then e-mailed them messages about unique products, deals, and contests offered by The company started with major blogs such as Boing Boing and Gizmodo; news of Firebox then circulated among smaller blogs that linked to the larger ones.

“Not every one of our clients can get away with that, but when you have product lines like gizmos and toys, you can feed the blogs and generate sales,” Linn says. “We found that blogs don’t respond well if your message is too corporate, so we cut that out and got to what’s important to the reader.”

Firebox’s product line ranges from Finger Drums (a complete drum kit shrunk to less than 7 inches) for $19.95 to USB turntables (which transfer vinyl records to a computer) for $129.95. Product categories include Boys Toys, Tech Toys, Retro, Games, and Edible.

“Basically we looked to replicate the U.K. launch strategy in the U.S., in which we targeted consumers with a passion for our products,” Robinson says. “We’re reaching bloggers with low-hanging fruit, introducing them to a brand that is new to the United States, and influencing them to shop with us.”

The company’s marketing efforts didn’t end with the blogosphere. Sandbox Strategies also contacted more-mainstream media outlets such as Ladies’ Home Journal, Rolling Stone, and VH1 with information about Firebox products in order to gain placement in their online gift guides.

Founded in 1998 as, Firebox has a print catalog in the U.K. as well as a Website and a wholesale business. The company has preliminary plans to launch a print catalog in the U.S. in the fall.

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