As you know (unless you’ve been hanging out on a deserted island the last several years, in which case I’d like to join you), unboxing videos have taken the internet by storm. They cover all categories, from hugely popular tech and toys to the downright mundane blender. And, of course, Custom Collectibles and Kids Meal Toys, our business. Given the incredible growth and prevalence of these influencer videos, I thought it would be fun to dig a little deeper to “unbox” what all the fuss is about.
It might seem obvious, but an unboxing video is just that – a simple, self-made video by an average consumer while he or she opens the package of a new product and shows it to online viewers. At its core, it’s really that basic. But as you might guess, there’s obviously a bit more to it, or people wouldn’t be so obsessed with them. Why do people care? What is so fascinating?
Actually, there are several reasons, some self-proclaimed and other more intrinsic, offered by psychologists to explain this often-addictive appeal. Let’s take a look at the biggies:
On the most basic level, unboxing videos provide basic product information often absent from glitzy advertising: a true sense of size, shape and, crucially, how it looks in normal lighting while being handled by a normal person. Folks who are considering buying that specific product or one like it want the real scoop – not the marketing version. In addition to what the product actually looks like, they want to know what all is included in the box and what the unboxer thinks about it.
Unboxings serve as a reliable product review via video. Liken it to virtually bringing the item home and checking it out yourself. Videos are the next best thing to actually spending money to buy the product to validate its details. So, unboxing videos can significantly reduce pre-purchase risk and uncertainty.
You might say, “just go to the website and research the product!” Yep, that’s do-able, but it feels much more authentic and trustworthy to get “multi-sensory” insights from an in-the-moment presentation by a real person – someone just like you and me. Kind of like an Amazon review on steroids. And that’s far easier than going into a brick-and-mortar store to ask the sales associate to open the box to see for yourself.
This unboxing motivation is similar to the desire for basic information but comes at it from a different direction. In this case, viewers are intrigued by the buzz and hype of a particular item and want to find out the real deal. Again, they don’t want the polished, corporate sell – they want the man-on-the-street, candid perspective.
Unboxing videos, endearingly homemade, offer an unvarnished, honest peek at commercial products. The beautifully retouched imagery and fancy videography used for marketing often vary from what's really in the box. People want to know what they're actually getting or what it truly looks like, and unboxing videos fill that need. Regardless of whether they’re actually in the market for the item.
What a powerful emotion! The element of product surprise goes way back to our younger years (at least mine), when Jack in the Box toys were a thing, Cracker Jack and cereal boxes contained mystery prizes, and bubble gum machines popped out plastic containers with fun toys (did I get the rub-on tattoo????)
Pamela Rutledge, Director of the Media Psychology Research Center in Southern California, believes unboxing videos feed into a primal curiosity and desire to know what’s hidden inside – which means the desire to be surprised could be part of our essential makeup (no wonder finding Easter eggs in video games is a big deal!)
Unboxing viewers closely identify with the surprise and delight shared by the vlogger. It’s fun and exciting to be surprised, even if you’re only watching.
If you think about it, the anticipation of reaching the final item in an unboxing is almost, if not more, emotionally engaging than the item itself. The slow, methodical,
step-by-step process of unsealing the shipping container, removing the box, lifting the lid, carefully separating items from the packing material, sliding them out of their polybags, examining each in detail, and ultimately revealing them in all their glory is certainly a visceral, treasured “ceremony.” One could say a proper unboxing is definitely a sensual art, to be savored and not rushed.
Apple is a great example of this as they meticulously design their packaging based on this premise. They consider their packaging to be an extension of their product. Designers meet in a dedicated unboxing room, where they engineer boxes and interior pack-out to optimize the emotional response customers experience when they open their new iPad.
We do the same thing here at Idea Planet. Many of our CE “packages” are intended to replicate the in-game experience and amplify the anticipation of the hero item reveal. Often the containment device is as treasured as the contents. The Borderlands 3 Loot Crate is one great example as is the MYST 20th Anniversary Book.
We live in great times, with really cool, innovative products and all-around fun stuff we absolutely don’t need but would truly fancy having. Even if our budget won’t cooperate, we still love to look and drool. Maybe it’s the latest Segway Ninebot Electric GoKart or Jelly Belly flavored sparkling water (right?) Whatever you’re into, chances are there’s an unboxing video for it – providing a socially acceptable way to ogle a new or high-end product.
Infatuation with a product or category can totally drive viewership of related unboxing videos. Let’s just say you’re a tech geek and you know a kick-ass, new smart home device has been in development for a while. But you can’t really afford to buy every awesome new tech gadget that comes out (dangit!) However, when the smart home device does finally hit the market, watching an unboxing video gives you the satisfaction of experiencing it right away. “Ahhh – that’s so cool!” Now you’re in the know and can share your insights with others, furthering your street cred on all things "tech-y."
Um, yeah. Just to prove my point, check out this wicked $25K phone!
Unboxing videos keep fans up to date on the categories, brands, and products they’re passionate about.
Plain and simple, opening a new product for the first time is something special. Everyone enjoys personally unboxing a brand new item. It generates all sorts of feels. The zip of slicing through strapping tape. The box flaps popping open. Crackling paper. Digging through the squeaky white foam peanuts that are spilling out on the table. The slow, careful reveal of the product. Turning, discovering, admiring. The oohs and aahs of all the wonderful details. The journey from eager anticipation to excitement and joy.
Unboxing videos allow viewers to immerse themselves into the experience and vicariously feel the rush of the entire process. This empathic reaction creates a thrill. Viewers can envisage what it might be like to own the product. And because the video isn’t professional, it’s easier to imagine yourself having the experience. And you can watch it (feel it) over and over again.
So, it’s not really surprising after all, that this feel-good experience has become a form of online entertainment. You might even call it BWUT – Binge Watching Unboxing Therapy, ha!
Ok, enough of my humor…suffice it to say that unboxing videos are clearly here to stay for many reasons. As business owners and marketers, it’s best to consider the “full package” when designing products, so when vloggers unbox your item (and they will!), viewers are truly captivated – feeding their burning desire to know what it’s like to actually have one.
I’ll end this blog with a relevant quote and a “white glove” unboxing video of the Borderlands Loot Crate made by Idea Planet (the CE, not the video!) Enjoy!
You design a ritual of unpacking to make the product feel special. Packaging can be theater. It can create a story.
Jonathan Ives, Apple designer
The COVID-19/Coronavirus Pandemic has caused major disruption worldwide. Each of us at Idea Planet is not only concerned about our brethren team in Shenzhen but for everyone affected by this devastating outbreak. As the situation evolves both here and abroad, we extend our heartfelt compassion to those in need. We are continuing to send medical and protection supplies to our staff, while also keeping in close contact with our factory partners, who are also dedicated to prevention and control. They are ramping back up with extensive new procedures to keep their workers and products safe and secure. Here in Dallas & Los Angeles, we are still operational and continuing our day-to-day business in the virtual world. We are hopeful for better news over the coming weeks and wish everyone health and a return to normalcy very soon.