It is often said that there are no new ideas, but [Vanessa] Troyer and [Chris] Farentinos turned that cliché inside out. By correctly anticipating how the high-tech future would change the way we shop, they updated one of the most low-tech items around: the repository of snail mail, the trusty mailbox. ...
What was so special about an Oasis? Well, for one thing, thieves couldn’t get their hands past its patented Hopper door — a hinged opening that functions much like those on the Postal Service’s big blue mailboxes. Also, it wasn’t ugly. ...
Consider, too, the way [Troyer] typed the name of Jeff Bezos, the founder and C.E.O. of Amazon.com, into Google and clicked through 58 pages until she found his phone number. She called and, saying that she wanted to send Mr. Bezos a birthday card, also got his address.
Mr. Farentinos created a detailed PowerPoint presentation showing how much money Amazon lost when its packages were stolen or returned because customers lacked a lockable mailbox. They sent Mr. Bezos the analysis along with an Oasis Jr., writing “A birthday gift for Jeff” on the FedEx label.
A day after the “gift” arrived, an Amazon employee called. The site sold its first Architectural Mailboxes product in January 2006, and it now carries more than 140.
“Amazon helped legitimize us,” says Mr. Farentinos, an engineer who designs the company’s products, which now have a range of competition from other companies.
--Amy Wallace, NYT, on the extra marketing mile