a person carrying a bunch of cardboard boxes

Cardboard Box Theory: Is Your Showroom In Order?

By Matt Wilson

Many years ago, I was the Marketing Director at the Danbury Fair Mall, the largest mall in the state of Connecticut. I handled the malls advertising, events and shows, customer service booth, and the carousel…plus a bunch of other things that aren't relevant to the cardboard box theory.

One thing that I focused on was the mall's appearance. The theory was that the mall's appearance was as important as the retail mix. I would walk around the mall looking at it from a customer's perspective and ask myself some simple questions. Does the mall look clean? Does the mall look upscale? Is this a place I would want to shop? Do I feel safe here? Does it look sloppy? Does it look like a construction site? Does the environmental signage look upscale and professional while clearly directing people to the right places?

I call it the cardboard box theory. I've always thought cardboard boxes look sloppy, moving is never an enjoyable experience and unpacking is a pain in the neck. You always end up with that one lone cardboard box sitting around that never gets unpacked. Eventually, you stick it in the basement. That cardboard box represents something left unfinished or a feeling of disorganization. It doesn't belong and stands out no matter where you put it.

Now translate that to an upscale shopping center and a car dealership. A cardboard box left out next to a kiosk in the middle of the mall looks sloppy. The same thing can be said for a car dealership. When UPS drops off a package, how long does the cardboard box sit behind the reception desk?

It's not just about cardboard boxes, it's about the appearance of the mall and the dealership from top to bottom. Are their footprints on the walls behind the sales desk? Is there outdated signage hanging up? Can customers clearly find the sign for the restrooms? Is customer parking clearly marked off? What's the first thing a customer's eyes are drawn to when they walk in the building? Try and see your facility as a first-time guest might see it and think about the impression the appearance might be giving off.

The cardboard box theory starts with a single cardboard box and extends to all things visual in your showroom. Give customers a good first impression (and lasting impression) and that will reflect positively on your business.

Some more of my thoughts on the cardboard box theory can be heard in the latest episode of "Mostly Automotive Marketing with Matt Wilson."