The ‘unboxing video’ phenomenon that’s putting new pressures on packaging



22 Jul, 2021

Back in 2006, a fledgling social media channel called YouTube was starting to gather momentum. To create new content for the site, video production company Aradius Media Network decided to film a “ceremonial opening” of the new Nokia E61 mobile phone… and the unboxing video was born.

Flash forward 15 years and unboxing videos offer enormous marketing potential for brands selling packaged goods direct to consumers. According to Think with Google data, the number of hours people have spent watching this type of content is equivalent to watching the film Love Actually more than 20 million times. But with opportunity comes pressure.

Packaging is no longer just a means of catching the consumer’s eye at the shelf edge. In a digitally connected world, vloggers and influencers will explore every inch of the container as part of their reviewing experience.

Partnering with online content creators allows brands to drive awareness, increase digital engagement and promote sales. But unboxing video success means more than just putting your product in the right people’s hands…

Why are unboxing videos so popular? 

In a world where 81% of people research goods online before purchasing, it makes sense that people want to see what the product experience is like. And that’s why unboxing videos get such good traction.

If you’re unfamiliar with the concept, it’s worth checking out vlogger eaudeskin’s Glossier unboxing video, which has been viewed over 22,000 times.

Glossier is highly regarded for its branding, with its italicised Aperçu font and products placed in pink pouches, which consumers are encouraged to reuse as wash bags or cosmetics holders.

Lauren (eaudeskin) starts the video by mentioning how she “loves the Glossier aesthetic,” and that it’s “almost what sells me to their brand, to be honest”. She takes time to praise the slogan on the inside of the box, the “adorable” pink pouch, and the accompanying stickers – although these have since been discontinued as part of Glossier’s sustainability drive.  In fact, it’s 2.5 minutes  before she starts exploring any products.

Unboxing videos work because they’re authentic. Even if influencers have been sent free samples or paid to develop content, their loyalties lie with their subscribers, who can tell if they’re faking interest in a product. And to maximise video content, vloggers will outline every part of the brand experience – including the packaging.

There’s even a YouTube channel dedicated to packaging reviews, featuring online CPG brands including Function of Beauty, Dropps, Milk Makeup and Curology. As channel creator Lumi notes, “packaging is the new storefront”.

How can brands create successful unboxing videos? 

The unboxing video market is hugely lucrative, but as we’ve already mentioned, it’s not as simple as sending out samples. For online content to capture consumers’ attention, there are a few points that brands need to consider:

Which influencers are you going to partner with? Many vloggers will only work with brands that align with their personal values, so it’s important to find advocates who embody your target audience. For example, if your product is plant-based, look for a vegan content creator or those on a mission to add variety to their diet. Ditto recyclable materials and sustainability influencers.

Finding someone in the right niche can be more powerful than going after an influencer with huge subscriber numbers. If you’re in the cosmetics space, think laterally about how your product could be marketed rather than simply trying to get on the radar of a major beauty vlogger who is inundated with offers.

For example, if your product contains ingredients that promote relaxation and quality sleep, you may want to explore opportunities with Autonomous Sensory Meridian Response (ASMR) content creators. ASMRtist WhispersRed’s Peachiebox unboxing video has been viewed over 440,000 times.

Or refocus your age range: makeup and skincare brand Petite ‘n Pretty scored a massive win by collaborating with 14-year-old vlogger Jessalyn Grace. Her Petite ‘n Pretty unboxing video has been watched more than four million times!

Does your packaging sell the brand experience? As we’ve outlined already, optimising your on-pack visuals can create an unboxing video experience that really stands out. You want an immediate impact – if a video doesn’t capture people’s attention in the first 10 seconds, they will switch off – and the product packaging is the first thing people see.

Great packaging involves more than strong visuals. Many successful brands use the outer box to create moments of fun, interest and engagement, before enhancing the consumer experience with the product itself. Take a look at our post on 5 FMCG brands that have nailed their D2C packaging for some good examples.

What’s the point of sale? If you’re pursuing online content as a key marketing channel, it’s not just product visuals that you need to consider. There are clear regulations regarding packaging and labelling, and an unboxing video counts as a point of sale.

According to UK law, labels cannot mislead consumers on quantity, size, price, ingredients/materials, what the product can do, or who endorses it. The final two elements are particularly important when you’re working with vloggers: to avoid the wrath of the regulators, the unboxing video must be accurate as well as engaging.

Where do you want consumers to go after they’ve watched the video? While brand awareness is useful, for unboxing content to deliver ROI, you need it to drive sales.

Brands who ace content generation understand that physical and digital product experiences need to integrate. We recently talked about the rapid growth of connected packaging, and how shelf-edge engagement can drive online interaction. Video assets are no different.

While digital content places new pressures on product packaging, it also opens up new routes to purchase. Combining the unboxing video with an exclusive discount code or affiliate link will maximise sale opportunities, as you’re using online consumer engagement to generate web traffic.

Some viewers might Google you afterwards, but it’s far better to strike while the iron is hot. For unboxing videos to be successful, make it easy for the people watching to make an immediate purchase.

Hooley Brown optimises brand labels and digital content to create joined-up paths to purchase. Follow us on LinkedIn for connected packaging insights. 


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