THE BLOG
11/23/2016 07:02 pm ET Updated Nov 24, 2017

The Art of Unboxing: Packaging Opportunity In The Age of Earned Content

It's like the saying goes: You never get a second chance to make a first impression - which is why presentation means everything in retail. Since the early days of product marketing, brands have strove to make packaging pop, sizzle and entice. Utilizing bright colors, catchy slogans and detailed copy marketers understand the power of packaging to grab the attention of consumers and drive sales.

Those moments of excitement and anticipation of opening a new product is now being captured and shared on social media. Consumers are increasingly serving as brand ambassadors, generating an average 95 million Instagram posts per day -- many of which focus on their favorite purchases. Though photos were the first wave of social engagement, videos are right on their heels. Across Facebook, Instagram, YouTube and Snapchat, shoppers have begun creating clips that capture them opening and reacting to their favorite purchases. Dubbed unboxing, these user-generated videos span across industries, from toys and collectibles to high-fashion capturing and capitalizing on the 'surprise and delight' moment of opening a package for the first time.

Garnering more than 1.1 billion YouTube views last year and celebrating a growing presence across social channels, unboxing grants consumers a new means of exploring brand offerings in the digital age. A growing trend, unboxing's viral potential incentivizes brands to enhance packaging and create visually stunning assets that resonate with consumers. Unboxing offers a tremendous impact to brands across industries, demonstrating the real-time benefits of share-worthy packaging, curated goods and the unprecedented value User-Generated Content (UGC), or "Earned Content," provides.

Share-Worthy Packaging
In recent years, consumers' expectations have risen far beyond exemplary goods, with 40% of consumers more likely to patronize companies that provide premium packaging. Further, another 40% claim brand packaging influences their perception of a retailer. Since its 2003 debut, Casper, an e-commerce mattress company, has received prominent buzz around its peculiar packaging, stuffing full, queen and king-sized foam mattresses into small, shippable boxes. Not only has Casper's memorable boxes spurred reactions of disbelief and awe on social, but it's triggered a flurry of unboxing videos across social.

Taking a leaf from Casper, brands should keep design top-of-mind when creating new products, as innovative presentations are apt to spur social engagement. Marketers with visually appealing goods should make branded hashtags visible on packaging and routinely feature earned content within their social channels to drive awareness and inspire future shoppers to share unboxing experiences as well.

Extending the Sales Floor
Though brands once paid spokespeople to endorse offerings, unboxing allows every day consumers to take centerstage and serve as brand advocates. Whether a Star Wars fanatic opening a rare collectible or a fashionista modeling a new piece of jewelry, reactions to unboxing are raw and unfiltered. This transparency is essential to consumers with 43% valuing authenticity over content. Unboxing is especially influential within certain fashion and beauty categories, allowing retailers to drastically extend their sales floor. Through unboxing videos and other bits of earned content, potential customers can see how clothing, accessories and beauty products look on shoppers of other shapes, ages and skin tones. Whereas a traditional advertisement is limited to displaying how a product looks on a single model, unboxing allows brands to extend their reach and relatability.

Although YouTube has traditionally served as the epicenter of unboxing, fashion brands are beginning to embrace more unorthodox channels like Snapchat as well. In June, style-writer Jake Woolf took over GQ's account and unboxed a pair of Yeezys for the magazine's followers, allowing them to experience unboxing content on-the-go and on the platform of their preference. The initiative has seen success; GQ has embraced unboxing since its Snapchat debut, producing five sneaker-themed videos to date. While such a campaign certainly has value and exposes offerings to a wider audience, brands should try to prioritize the content of everyday consumers whenever possible, as those assets better resonate with audiences. In the future, retailers like Yeezys could encourage consumers to share unboxing content on platforms like Twitter and Instagram for enhanced authenticity and visibility.

Opportunity for Subscription Services
In recent years, curated subscription services have seen a boom in popularity and with companies like Cratejoy offering packages spanning gaming, fitness and more, there is no shortage of hobbies for shoppers to tap into. The viral potential of these boxes is substantial, with each containing multiple layers of goods for recipients to sift through and discuss during unboxing and earned content.

Stitch Fix, for example, is a fashion service which delivers new pieces every few weeks. Highly curated to a subscriber's preferences, customers complete a style quiz upon signup and are then presented with personalized packages containing slacks, blouses, shoes, accessories and more. Customers delighted by their personal stylists have taken to Instagram, where they unbox their hyper-personalized collections. This model is greatly beneficial to Stitch Fix, as it allows them to showcase their sophisticated curation algorithms and diverse offerings, eliciting highly emotional reactions from shoppers.

Encouraging Uploads
To riff off the success of unboxing, brands should include unique, branded hashtags within packaging for consumers to use when they upload content across social channels. This allows marketers to easily find the content ambassadors are sharing -- and then reach out for permission to reuse these assets in future campaigns. Potential shoppers curious for a deeper look at products can also search through these hashtags to experience a plethora of content vouched for by their peers. Companies looking to make a bigger splash can also invite shoppers to submit unboxing content for the chance to win special prizes.

With 62% of consumers watching unboxing videos as a means of researching purchases, unboxing and user-generated content offer brands exciting opportunities to humanize marketing and create lasting impressions with consumers. Brands across industries should identify opportunities to leverage unboxing, encouraging customers to share content using designated hashtags and then, once they've obtained permission, sharing these assets across marketing channels. In doing so, consumers are granted an authentic look at brand offerings, boosting consumer trust while effectively filling the content gap marketers increasingly face. Though still in its early phases, unboxing already offers a tremendous impact, allowing brands to effectively extend the shopper journey beyond purchasing while fostering long-term loyalty.