Creative, smart and inspirational unboxing

Where does the unboxing trend come from? How can it have grown so big? And which are the most creative and inspiring unboxing solutions? Here, in our latest blog post, we will take a closer look at one of the biggest trends of the packaging industry.

Already in 2006, people started talking about unboxing. That is the trend where people unpack a newly-bought product while filming the process and commenting on the unpacking. This phenomenon is supposed to have started with The unboxing of the Nokia E61 cell phone . But it took until 2010 for the trend to pick up speed and yield nearly 2.5 million internet searches. 
Today, eight years later, a YouTube search gives you more than 73 million hits and the number of videos keeps increasing. But not only mobile phones are unboxed on YouTube. It can be anything from beauty products and food to toys and technical gadgets.

Some people maintain that the trend is based on a fundamental human trait – the urge to possess things.

How can the trend grow this big?

Some people maintain that the trend is based on a fundamental human trait – the urge to possess things. Or the joy of having bought something new. Another explanation can be that you are thinking of buying a product and use social media to explore what you will actually get.
Yet another reason can be the profitability of unboxing videos on YouTube. It is estimated that the best-paid YouTuber made 5 million dollars in 2014 just unpacking toys. Surveys show that the trend has effect and 62% of the people who watch unboxing videos are in fact buyers checking out what’s on offer.

Creative unboxing

Brands that adopted the unboxing trend at an early stage are mobile phone brands such as Samsung and Apple. They have developed unboxing to become a digital ceremony and their clips are characterized by a meticulous consideration of the package – the smell, the look and feel of material, and smart features. There are also plenty of examples of companies that made their own unboxing videos and fell flat. So, the question is if viewers rather see consumers unpack and comment?

Birchbox is a company that understands this. They offer subscriptions of cosmetics and beauty products and have really succeeded in creating a fantastic unboxing experience. One success factor is the packaging design, different every time there is a new pack in the mailbox. The design is adapted to the contents, which is also different for every month. In addition, the box often contains competitions and activities. The Birchbox unboxing experience is so successful that the pack itself builds expectations and is widely shared in social media – with up to a quarter of a million unboxing videos dedicated solely to Birchbox.

Among other players who have realized the importance of the Unboxing Experience is Dollar Shave Club, a subscription service for razors. Their humorous, neat and user-friendly packages persuade 10,800 YouTubers to make videos of themselves unpacking the products.

Unboxing as a toy

Toy manufacturers have also hitched on to the unboxing trend and even created a product based on the phenomenon: a collector’s doll “L.O.L. Surprise” that includes seven different unboxing layers. Inside the seven layers is the seven-centimetre doll, and for every packaging layer there is something that the kids can use when playing with the doll. Accessories, shoes and pets, for example. In less than a year, more than 25 million dolls were sold. The doll has become an enormously popular character on YouTube, with over 1.4 million search results for “Unboxing L.O.L. Surprise“.

Unboxing a world record

A brand that has taken unboxing to a new level is Volvo Trucks when launching the Volvo VNL 760 with the biggest unboxing act ever. The film showed three-year old truck fan Joel Jovine, who got to unpack the new truck while commenting on new technology and new features. In short, a smart and innovative unboxing solution that broke all records.
If it works for trucks, why not for cars, too? Unboxing became a success for Volvo Cars at the launch of their new technology-packed car:
“Luxury car campaigns often look very much alike, but for this launch we didn’t want to produce the glossy car ads that we’ve already seen. Therefore, we created a series of entertaining webisodes – short films entitled Unboxing, that reveal the revolutionary technical innovations of the world’s first diesel plug-in hybrid. By unboxing this technologically advanced car, we address our most tech savvy audiences” says Richard Monturo, Vice President Global Marketing, Volvo Car Corporation, in a press release.

Unboxing in the future

Packaging blogger and former PIDA contester Ylva Petersdotter wrote about packaging trends 2018, and in that post she drew the attention to unboxing and pointed out its potentials.
“We buy more and more things online, anything from food to electronics. The packaging is also increasingly visible in social media, for instance through phenomena such as “unboxing”. This puts new demands on packaging, in terms of sustainability, logistics and, not least, appearance. A pack has to look good and do justice to the brand in the web shop, in the mail, and when you open it, especially if the brand aims for loyal customers and repurchase. Up until now, only few brands succeed in this, but since e-commerce is steadily increasing I believe that all this will soon be a hygiene factor.”    

Unboxing and sustainability

The unboxing trend opens up for more sustainable packaging. For example, there are several smart and creative examples of unboxing experiences where the package can live on and create new areas of use. Examples of this can be found among earlier PIDA design projects. The winning concept Z5 from PIDA Germany 2016 is just one great example: a packaging design for a mini-computer provided a keyboard and a screen for communication.