Unbox clever: unpacking the trend and what it means for retail packaging

Posted: Wednesday 28th March 2018

Author: Michael Grass


For a grown man in his early thirties, I’ve had toys on my mind a lot recently. Sure, I have a three year old son who can’t get enough of the plastic things and yes, a beloved retail chain from my childhood recently did go into administration, but that’s not what’s causing my mind to wander towards Funko bobbleheads and Paw Patrol action figures. No, I am trying to wrap my head around what must be the most mind-boggling YouTube sensation in years: unboxing.

For those unfamiliar with the fad, the concept behind unboxing is astonishingly simple: clip begins as a consumer receives a package, before said package is unpackaged and its contents are displayed to the viewer with the sort of tact and reverence usually reserved for a ceremonial event. Which makes the appeal of these videos all the more perplexing. Well, initially, at least.

At the core of the unboxing phenomenon lies an idea that neatly encapsulates an all-pervading, but often overlooked, consumer attitude – that we get more gratification from buying and opening a new product than we do from actually owning it. What the unboxing videos do is capture the apex of this addictive ritual, one that harks back to our earlier years when we’d experience sheer joy at unwrapping a birthday or Christmas present. When viewed through this lens, the overwhelming popularity of these videos makes a lot more sense.

Usually, where there is a trend there is also a business opportunity, and there’s a lot that brands can take away from unboxing. First, these clips offer irrefutable proof that consumers now expect high packaging quality – after all, the premise of these videos would not work if the product packaging was either visually unappealing or awkward to unwrap. Enterprises should use the unboxing craze as an incentive to enhance their packaging by creating designs that resonate with consumers both on a practical and aesthetic level. Brand packaging can prove instrumental in securing customer loyalty, which is why companies should treat packaging as an extension of their product.

Second, we now live in the age of earned content, where likes and shares carry a certain weight, amplifying brand visibility to previously unheard of levels – and unboxing videos tend to get an ungodly amount of views on YouTube (866,764,422 hits for a Play Doh set??). As a result, if a brand hopes their item will start trending on social media and potentially lead to the current Mecca of online promotion (to be featured in a video on a popular unboxing channel), then official branded hashtags should now be routinely featured on product packaging.

Perhaps it is The Huffington Post that highlights the best quality of the unboxing trend: it provides brands with an opportunity to humanise marketing and product placement, creating a more lasting impression with consumers online. And that sounds too good an opportunity to pass up.


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