Unboxing unboxing

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How packaging can drive sales and build advocacy at the heart of the unboxing experience.

If you haven’t seen or heard about the unboxing trend consuming the internet then you’d better crawl out from behind that pile of plain cardboard boxes and take note. It has the potential to energise a brand’s sales and drive massive advocacy, for practically zilch.

Proof? Type ‘unboxing’ into youtube’s search field and watch with jaw agape as you’re presented with 80m+ videos of paper pulling, cardboard crumpling pure unboxing porn. Not to mention 698,046 images on Instagram under the moniker of #unboxing. How’s that for a cost-effective marketing tool?

So what is it? Well, it’s pretty simple really. Users film themselves opening the packaging of whatever they’ve just bought, from a new piece of tech or item of clothing to something more erm… niche, like a month’s supply of live bloodworms to feed your pet reptile. The video is then posted online (typically YouTube), and shared on social media.


Lewis Hilsenteger of Unbox Therapy regularly clocks over 5m views on his youtube channel for new tech. Ditto for child star Tiana of Toys and Me who has even taken her unboxing skills to live events. Brands have also shipped their products to specific key influencers for unboxing in order to ‘engineer’ advocacy, although this can backfire when the products end up in the wrong hands or users with fake accounts.

As brands shift from bricks and mortar stores to online retail the game changes. It becomes harder to influence a consumer’s decision at the point of purchase. That eagerly awaited package they receive through the post from Amazon might represent the first time a consumer is exposed to a brand. And as we know, good first impressions are vital in forming a positive brand relationship. It needs to happen before they’ve even got to the product, and this is where packaging plays a pivotal role.

Packaging is at the heart of it all, consistently mentioned in comments and often the most memorable part of a video. It doesn’t end there either as photos of the packaging are also posted on Instagram, Facebook and Snapchat. The impact of the experience stays with the purchasers too, it’s proven to influence their future purchases and build loyalty, fuelling that ancient but still relevant marketing staple - word of mouth.

How consumers interact with a product’s packaging after delivery should be on the minds of every packaging professional. Here’s why;

  • Studies have shown that as much as 52% of consumers are likely to repeat buy from a brand that delivers a premium unboxing experience.
  • The same study also discovered that nearly 4 in 10 consumers would share an image of their delivered packaging on social if it was unique enough.
  • Google’s Consumer Survey says 62% of people who view unboxing videos do so when researching a particular product.


Nothing can understate the value of an unboxing experience igniting on social media, giving brands massive exposure and uplifting website traffic. For £0.00. So when a consumer bulk buys for say, holiday or Christmas, who’s brand are they going to remember? The one that came in a boringly plain beige box or the one with personalised messaging wrapped in bamboo?

Memorable experiences stick in the consumer's mind and will always link back to the product. 

So how do we go about creating something that’s out of the ordinary and relevant to the brand, an experience that goes beyond the functional and makes an emotional connection?

Think about the journey in stages, and craft the experience around the consumer -  receiving the box, opening the box, discovering the contents and finding a use for the empty box.

Think about tailoring. One way to do this is by using custom printing that allows you to personalise on-pack messaging with fast turnarounds and low entry costs so you can even trial different approaches. 

Know your audience. Whether they’re new customers, repeat purchasers or even key influencers, each needs a different approach - e.g. a new customer might need greater incentives and a key influencer would find a press pack useful.

Don’t just think about how it looks. How should it feel? Should it have an unusual opening mechanism? It might even be relevant to think how it might smell or sound!

To drive social traffic, get consumers to use branded hashtags when they post photos and videos of themselves unboxing the product.

The Beautycon subscription box does a great job of prompting the recipient to share their experience on social with the use of playful messaging and simple icons, but we think it would be even better if the process was incentivised with product discounts to really drive some participation.


Disruptive fashion brand The Trunk Club takes an imaginative approach with their delivery in the shape of vintage suitcases. And it doesn’t stop there. The items inside are presented beautifully, embellished with ribbons and a handwritten note.


Subscription beauty brand Birchbox has an unboxing experience so good it has over 250k videos dedicated to it. What works for us is that the experience is different every time, with competitions, sticker packs and activities. The package is also designed to slip straight through the letterbox so no signature is required. A card inlay gives a personal feel with a message from founders Katia Beauchamp and Hayley Barna.

An article such as this wouldn’t be complete without a mention of the original masters of the unboxing experience, Apple. Their packaging mimics their product design - smooth, white and discreet. The whole process is effortless. Steve Jobs’ philosophy ‘Design’s not how it looks. Design is how it works,’ is clearly evident. I’ve even heard Apple have an ‘unboxing room’ where they experiment with the process, seeking the ultimate emotional response when a customer rips in to get at their new iPad. YouTube is a testament to how popular the Apple unboxing experience is.


What the unboxing experience does is awaken our inner child, igniting the human desire for surprise and delight. It elevates the importance of packaging further, as the key introduction to a brand or product and presents an exciting opportunity for creative thinking to deliver strong commercial results.

If you want to find out more about how your brand can unleash your consumers' inner child with a unique unboxing experience get in touch with The Space Creative at jo@thespacecreative.com


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