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Unboxing – Packaging as an Internet Event
When the first online shops opened their gates to the broad masses of home shoppers, this was accompanied by a new trend in word-of-mouth propaganda: Internet companies realised their opportunities and started to develop portals for customer reviews. Scoring systems and lists of pros and cons were to enable customers to rate the products they had bought and to help potential customers in their search for the right products.
Gradually these ratings became longer and more personal. Short bulleted lists and golden stars became entire articles. Whole blogs were written in which authors entered into increasingly intensive discussions of products, rating not just the exterior but also the actual product features, comparing one product with another and communicating with their readers via the comment function. Finally videos were created where products were presented fully and in real-time: this was the beginning of unboxing. The focus was no longer on the product itself, but on the act of unpacking.
The quality of an unboxing video can vary, ranging from amateur to professional. Any internet user who is a little technically minded and sufficiently self-confident can produce their own video, upload it to a video portal and then write a few words about it. On the other hand, a high-quality journalistic assessment requires not only suitable media equipment, but also specific expertise concerning the essence of a product and its technical properties.
Although journalists and amateurs tend to prefer videos for their unboxing activities, we can also find numerous illustrated articles under the heading of “unboxing” on the internet. Whether it is an article or a video, unboxing differs from a traditional product description which usually focuses on the product itself. Unboxing, on the other hand, gives detailed descriptions, from the packaging to the small parts. Videos and articles often start with the packaging design: Does it suit the product? What is its message? Like a customer in a shop, a reader or viewer is initially attracted by the visual impact of a product. Studies have shown that the visual impact of the packaging plays a major role in a buying decision. The first impression – i.e. its packaging of a product – is therefore of crucial importance in unboxing.
While pictures only show the main stages in the unpacking process, a video deals with each piece of cardboard, each piece of polystyrene and each plastic bag. Step by step, sentence by sentence, and image after image, the viewer or reader comes a little closer to the actual product itself. And this, too, is looked at in great detail, proceeding from the outside to the inside. Unboxing is not just the physical removal of a product from its packaging. It is also the metaphorical extraction of information about the inner workings of a product. Once the outer case of a product has been stripped off, the focus is on the housing of a notebook, the flacon of a cosmetics product or indeed the installation assistant of a game, closely scrutinising the technical details of its composition: the hardware of a computer, the chemical composition of a toothpaste or the graphics of a console game. As with all new technical products, these details provide a basis for comparison. A potential buyer can therefore access the relevant information quickly and is spared the need for extensive research.
Today unboxing is not just a matter of journalism, but it is also used as a means of conveying knowledge. Companies use unboxing as a specific marketing tool: Online shops produce their own videos, providing customers with added value, and manufacturers design their packaging creatively and with a view to unboxing. If a product has not quite reached the market yet, then unboxing can give customers a realistic foretaste and enable them to look forward to the product.
Unboxing combines all the facets of the product, while appealing to all stakeholders alike: Manufacturers are encouraged to design their products in line with customers’ demands and are also given a highly effective marketing tool. The customer can access plenty of valuable experience and receive the relevant information in consolidated form. And of course it also benefits the market, as unboxing creates a greater desire among customers to buy things while reducing the potential number of bad buys.