We’ve probably all seen one: A top down, flat lay format video; all we see the host’s hands, and a clean crisp product in a box. He/she flips the box around, slowly, telling us a little bit about the product. The host then starts to open the box, little by little, each piece of packaging coming with its own spiel — even smallest bit of tape or paper seem to have their own mini-stories. Layers upon layers get peeled off, one by one, each piece progressively getting closer and closer to the main event; sometimes there are so many layers that the product itself, when revealed, seems almost anti-climactic.
The Unboxing Experience became popular early on in the 2010s. After e-commerce hit mainstream, e-brands realized they had to provide some form of 'IRL' experiences for their 100% digital-based customers.
For customers who had gotten used to boring brown packaging, sense-enticing, 'instagramable' boxes filled with confetti; or rainbow colored packing fluff as opposed to styrofoam peanuts or air-bubbles were a feast for the eyes.
The beautifully organic consequence was one that hadn't been predicted or planned. Giddy customers began filming and sharing the experience, picking up viral steam and ushering in the new generation of digital word-of-mouth marketing.
But does packaging actually contribute to the experience? Why, yes! Research shows that attractive packages activated regions of the brain associated with reward, whereas unattractive packages activated regions associated with negative emotions.
One of the very first (or at least the most popular) mainstream proponents of beautiful packaging was Apple. The whole concept of the appeal of packaging relies on giving buyers a sensory experience. It’s also linked to an experience called Autonomous Sensory Meridian Response (ASMR), which has spawned its own niche of viral videos — but that’s a story for another day.
But basically, when you think of it, a buyer’s first experience with a product and a brand is through the packaging. Apple’s minimalist and classy branding approach is well-translated into its clean, pristine packaging. The artistic approach Apple uses in its packaging highlights the logo, and nothing else; it’s almost as if the lack of elements in the packaging help build anticipation for the actual product inside the box.
In fact, Apple has taken its packaging approach to a whole new level, since it employs packaging designers who take on the mundane task of opening boxes, day in and day out.
“To fully grasp how seriously Apple executives sweat the small stuff, consider this: For months, a packaging designer was holed up in this room performing the most mundane of tasks - opening boxes,” writes veteran tech journalist Adam Lashinsky in his book, Inside Apple.
Scenario 1) You walk into a store, buy a product and walk out.
Scenario 2) You log onto a page/app, buy a product and close the window.
For either scenario, an exciting unboxing once the customer gets home, or that moment the package arrives can be the cherry on top of their experience. But it's not only just a little extra surprise and delight, it is also an opportunity to reinforce branding and create a talk trigger.
By adding on-brand colors, or elements of your visual design to your packaging, you consolidate your presence even after the touchpoint with your company. A great example of this is FabFitFun and their season themed surprise boxes that you can see a mile away.
Another way to reach your customers post-purchase is through hand-written notes or cards inside the box, like the ones Chewy famously sends customers out of the blue. Very on-brand for them.
In the age of online shopping, unboxing videos are a great way for potential customers to have a “direct” experience with the product they’re considering buying. The whole experience is a big factor in the way customers will perceive the product, and thus becomes a major influence on whether or not they decide to purchase the item or not.
Also, with many customers increasingly becoming skeptical of “influencer” type advertising and marketing, unboxing carries a more genuine feel. The reviewer has more leeway to explain different things about the product, establishing themselves to be more knowledgeable about what they’re talking about.
The beauty of unboxing is that reviewers can go through each aspect of the product and give out detailed information — information customers are interested, such as how a product feels in the hand, or first impressions and thoughts, which in turn keep audiences engaged.
Also, as opposed to traditional advertising, unboxing is largely more unbiased, true, and honest — it’s the epitome of WYSIWYG (what you see is what you get), which particularly resonates with millennial audiences. Oftentimes, having an amazing unboxing experience will cause your influencers, whether paid or organic, to naturally share that experience with their followers and friends without you having to explicitly tell them what to do.
While unboxing videos won’t fit every marketing strategy, such as those for companies that sell products and services that don’t have much physical packaging, we can all take a page out of the unboxing book and find ways to deliver a more genuine experience of using a product akin to unboxing, such as using live testimonials.
Unboxing experiences are a modern-day solution to decreasing the distance between brand and customer. It adds an extra touchpoint to your customers' journeys even when you're not physically present -- and brings the added benefit of creating talk triggers that generate spontaneous (and free!) word-of-mouth advertising for you product.
At times in the digital world, not only are brands farther away from customers, customers are also much more detached from brands. Using unique packaging is a creative way to strengthen your customers' perception of your brand and extend their experience with you beyond checkout and into their personal lives.
Perhaps maybe now you'll consider adding some colorful confetti to your packaging?