David Luttenberger

March 30, 2016

In this mobile device-enabled era of Instagraming, snapchatting, texting, tweeting and periscoping, it’s often more surprising when an event, thought, idea or experience isn’t captured and posted online than when it is. Consumers armed with anything from a basic smartphone to a portable GoPro to broadcast-quality video cameras are supplying the world with digital content that not only entertains, but in some instances informs, educates and, now, even influences purchasing decisions.

Following closely on the heels of the YouTube sensation of “haul videos”—where shoppers shared the booty of their retail treasure hunts with anyone willing to watch—brands, retailers and even packaging converters are now the target of “unboxing” videos. The unboxing phenomenon is unfolding literally as we watch, sometimes in collective amazement and sometimes with a shared horror.

By and large, unboxing videos are produced and shared by otherwise everyday consumers unpacking consumer goods ranging from food to electronics to shoes purchased either at retail or online. These videos are most often posted in all their unedited glory where both product and package are the target of their uncensored opinions and, when they discover something they find unpleasant or, in their opinion, wrong, their rants.

Unboxing videos can vary in length from 30 seconds to 10 minutes or more. As of Mar. 18, 2016, there are more than 39 million search results on YouTube for the term “unboxing.”

The popularity of unboxing videos can be attributed to consumers’ interest and most importantly, trust, in online reviews. According to Mintel’s January 2016 US Beauty Retailing report, 39% of U.S. adults who are social media users and have purchased beauty products in the last 12 months agree that social media posts encourage them to buy particular products. Thirty-five percent of the same adult group like sharing their product experience on retailers’ social media channels. Clearly, social media has become a major influencer of purchasing decisions, which poses challenges and creates opportunities for brands to reach consumers in ways not previously possible.

Accordingly, unboxing videos have begun to weave their way into the zero moment of truth (ZMoT), when consumers begin to form purchasing opinions well before they enter a brick-and-mortar or online retail environment. Unboxing videos have taken both ZMoTs to a new level—moving it beyond the control of retailers, brand owners or even packaging converters. Unboxing is creating a genre of wanna-be social media reality stars who now get first crack at consumer engagement and influence.

It’s because of that influence, and even power, that unboxing videos hold the potential to persuade or dissuade purchasing behavior. In kind, brand owners and even packaging converters need to embrace, rather than ignore them. Ignoring the uncensored reality of unboxing videos is akin to putting a lid on a pot after it has boiled over. By embracing, or even sponsoring, unboxing videos, brands can create a new level of consumer engagement and, potentially, a new level of trust with consumers.

Unboxing videos should also become part and parcel of new product and packaging development projects. They are teachable moments, albeit after the fact. But they can be used to gain key insights into what consumers like and dislike. They can be used to gauge reaction, sentiment and even ideas on how to improve a product or package.

And most importantly, and perhaps productively, if brands would actively engage in the comments sections of unboxing videos—to include the recognition of constructive comments as well as non-condescending education regarding why a product is packaged the way it is—unboxing could be a valuable and reliable tool in brand marketers and packaging converters’ toolboxes.


David Luttenberger is the global packaging director at Mintel. He has 24 years’ packaging experience. He can be reached at [email protected]. You can also follow him on Twitter at @packaginggeek.

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