'Unboxing' the Future of Advertising

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By Eric McGehearty

It’s addictive. It’s formulaic. It doesn’t matter how badly lit or whether the sound is perfect, because authenticity is the shiny coin that instills loyalty. It’s a trend that has my kids, my neighbors’ kids, tweens and countless adults worldwide mesmerized on a level akin to the Pied Piper.

This is the age of YouTube unboxing. Any product manufacturer or retailer that has the ambition to create a loyal and rapt customer base, no matter the target generation, must tap into this commanding marketing format. Why? It viscerally connects with customers -- and it’s where the money really is.

What Is Unboxing?

Unboxing videos are vlogs on YouTube that use simple yet powerful storytelling tools to reveal, inspect, demonstrate and review a product. These videos attract hundreds of millions of viewers (not an overstatement) and routinely dominate the circuit of most popular YouTube videos. This is a trend not to be ignored.

Each successful unboxing vlog has a likable everyday character, who is simply being him or herself, tearing apart a box, ripping open wrapping paper, or digging into a shopping bag to create the big reveal of a product. They play with the toys, demonstrate the product, try on the clothes, and examine every stitch or take the viewer on a real life test drive of the latest techno gadget. One of the most successful unboxing channels is Ryan ToysReview, where four-year-old boy named Ryan opens and reviews toys. He boasts over 7 million subscribers.

Why Is This Trend Different?

When someone watches an unboxing video, they want to discover the next cool product, how to use a certain product effectively, or find for a review of a specific product. In any of the three scenarios, the audience is engaged in word-of-mouth marketing.

You might say Amazon’s reviews are similar, but in terms of real marketing control, they are not. Putting the video component aside, Amazon has recently banned incentivized reviews that involve free or discounted products. Before it did so, reviewers could receive free or discounted products and review them if they disclosed that relationship within the writeup. Not surprisingly, the honor system failed. Too many reviewers did not disclose their situations, forcing Amazon to change policy.

YouTube is not concerned about incentivizing product reviews because its goal is increasing audience share to sell advertising. Brands are happy because of a guaranteed increase in visibility in front of a quality audience. Content producers will not only enjoy the notoriety of increasing views and better and free products, but their revenue also improves because they are paid by both YouTube and by the brand.

How Can You Get In On The Action?

This trend will continue to grow in the future. The real value is in getting that third party validation for your product in what feels like a sincere word-of-mouth endorsement. You will need to find and connect with the right reviewer, who has the right audience, who has built a real and measurable following, and with whom you can trust your brand reputation.

Do an initial search for your product on YouTube, especially if it comes in a box. Some businesses have found that their product has been unboxed, giving them free video content. If you have that scenario, strategically share that video across all of your social networks, and take the time to thank, credit and link to the unboxer.

If you want an unboxer with a superior following to review your product, be prepared to pay a click-per-view (CPV) price. Like any other purchase, comparison shop by weighing price against the average daily reach, the number of guaranteed views in 30 days, how the channel will make good if the video underperforms, and how long you will be on the hook to pay (usually 30 days, but sometimes longer depending on deal structure).

Before you make contact, research the unboxer’s background and watch their videos. Your target unboxer may have a following, but that does not ensure current or past behavior will reflect well on your brand.

Finally, be aware that unboxing is also expanding into other social media streams like Snapchat and Facebook. As such, never forget that these videos are just another spoke in the wheel. To ensure that unboxing marketing translates into sales conversions, make sure a link to your product is in the “comments” section and that your website is ready to close the sale.


Eric McGehearty is the CEO of Globe Runner, a top-performing, full-service digital marketing agency based in Dallas, Texas.

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