An interesting trend that has developed is the fetishisation of packaging through “unboxing”, which refers to people carefully opening up the packaging of new products (usually electronics), making a video of the process, and then uploading it onto the Internet for others to see. Many of these videos have hundreds of thousands of views on Youtube, and there are even websites dedicated to the activity, for example: unboxing.gearlive.com, which offers “Vicarious Thrills from Opening New Gear”.
The trend has been described as “Geek Porn” but it’s more than that. It’s also indicative of a cultural awareness of quality and the impressions made by product packaging. The videos, and the high numbers of people viewing them, demonstrate that for many, the packaging is almost as important as the product itself, and the experience of interacting with the packaging in order to get at the product inside, is a central part of the experience.
With certain products, this experience can be ongoing. One might enjoy popping the cap on their shower gel, tracing the glossy type on a box of chocolates with their fingertips, or reading and rereading the back of a cereal box. Peeling the protective sticker off a new cell phone screen is a widely enjoyed action, like unwrapping a fresh bar of soap or squeezing a new tube of toothpaste for the first time. Our attitude towards packaging is the same thing that makes us wrap gifts, even if it’s obvious what’s underneath the paper. Tearing the paper away is an integral part of the gift giving experience; a ritual, almost.
Packaging is not just to contain, protect or preserve a product. It’s not just a means of communicating information about the product. Sometimes, in a sense, the packaging IS the product. If the consumer has not yet experienced the product (or can’t properly see it, because it’s concealed by its packaging), they’re essentially buying it because of the impressions made by the packaging. They’re buying a promise. With the culture of “unboxing” and the emphasis placed on packaging these days, it is increasingly important for brands to be aware of the impressions that are made by their packaging.
Two good examples of excellent packagaing are those created by At Pace for Malus and The Bees Knees. Both are full of promise about the quality and purity of the product inside. Tactile, luxurious, meaningful, and memorable: these are values that can transform a good product into a great one.