A purple haired teen mugs for the camera. Excited, she retrieves a brown gift box with a snazzy logo and lettering that reads “MerLady Box”. She proceeds to open it and share its contents, one by one, with her viewers. She examines each item’s individual packaging and even smells a few of the products. The spectacle lasts a little over nine minutes and has a modest 26,400 views.
Welcome to the world of unboxing videos.
The phenomenon first picked up steam around 2004. As its popularity grew in the 2010s, unboxing transformed from niche clips about electronic items to one of the most watched video genres on the internet. Today, countless channels with hundreds of millions of subscribers flood YouTube alone. The trend remains so popular that ex-Hulu CTO Eric Feng recently launched an app that aggregates these videos, of which 6 billion hours are viewed on YouTube every month (no, that’s not a typo; 6 BILLION hours of these videos are consumed monthly)!
The unboxing phenomenon is only growing. If you’re in the ecommerce or subscription box industry, now’s the time to be thinking about how the right packaging can bring your brand big exposure. Here are a few things worth considering:
Our older, more jaded readers may scoff at the fact that some of these videos reach views in the tens of millions, but is it honestly so hard to understand the appeal? It’s the same appeal that had us running downstairs in our jammies early Christmas mornings. Opening presents is fun. Watching people open presents is fun. Surprise is fun. And that’s the key to good packaging design—maintaining an element of surprise that evokes childlike wonder.
For an audience to be engaged with a good story, they can never know what’s going to happen next. And while your consumer may be privy to the contents of the package being shipped, presentation remains a powerful tool to defy expectations.
If we once again look at MerLady Box, we see that every element included in the package (as well as the packaging itself) contributes to a sort of story.
Before being introduced to any of the items inside, you’re greeted by the company logo and the words “Indulge your inner mermaid”. This element builds anticipation.
Next, our eyes are drawn to the sticker, promo card, personalized note and the list of the contents. Before even getting to the goods, we’re treated to a few extras we probably weren’t expecting. It doesn’t matter that these extras are simply card stock with a few printed words—they elevate the experience. What’s more, the actual items we ordered are hidden from us underneath a layer of seaweed-like paper shreds.
Every element in this gift box helps create a journey. Each item presents us with a new step to muse over. Combined, everything in this package crafts a story that’s extremely filmable and watchable. The package is something worth sharing—be it on YouTube or any other form of social media.
Remember that YouTube isn’t just a visual medium. Sound plays an important role in the act of unboxing. Think about how the crinkling of the paper shreds serves as a sort of soundtrack.
And don’t forget that while smell and touch aren’t things we experience from a monitor, most unboxing videos feature the host prominently. When he or she gets excited about the feel of your packaging or the scent of some item, their enthusiasm comes through. In short, the more sensations your business’s packaging offers, the more your host has to talk about.
Don't be this guy.
While the many different elements that make up MerLady Box contribute to its unboxing appeal, we should be quick to note that more isn’t always better. Increasingly, unboxers are speaking out against overly packaged items. In a time when more and more young people are wearing their environmentalism on their sleeve, wastefulness is never a strong selling point. Breakable items inside MerLady Box may require the paper shreds, but if your ecommerce business is only shipping clothing, is that element really necessary?
Today, packaging in ecommerce should be all about simplicity. Start with the box itself. If something printed on your packaging doesn’t reinforce your brand, it doesn’t belong there. Stick to your logo, the company name and, if necessary, social media handles. Remember that more than half of YouTube views are from mobile devices. What can people discern from your branding when they’re observing it from an iPhone screen?
The inside of your packaging should serve as a pretty display case. Leave a good first impression and don’t just toss items in the box willy-nilly. Keeping everything well organized also helps the unboxing host to move from one item to the next with clarity. The easier you make it for them, the better their presentation skills will be.
Don’t be fooled by their fresh faces and innocent enthusiasm—these YouTubers and young influencers are running a business. They know that sharing your brand with tens of thousands or sometimes millions of people is worth something to your bottom line. Often, there’s a price tag attached.
But not in all cases. Some might showcase your product based on a free sample and nice letter you mail them. Others may come across your brand by happenstance and just love what you’re making. And don’t forget, nobody’s stopping you from making your own videos. For a minimal investment, you could be producing unboxing experiences on one or several different platforms (we’ve spent a lot of time talking about YouTube but Snapchat and Instagram also serve as powerful networks for these sorts of videos).
Whichever route you follow, remember that the quality of your packaging plays a major role in the type of exposure your brand receives. Always think back to those exciting holiday mornings from your childhood. The butterflies you’d get when mom or dad handed you that big box you’d been eyeing for the last week and a half. It’s a powerful, universal feeling and one that can transform your small brand into big business!