Unboxing, unboxed: Seven principles for creating packaging experiences worth sharing

Open YouTube, search for “unboxing” and you will find over 60 million videos. The number one unboxing video has received over 190 million unique views (okay, the cute kid helps). These astounding numbers illustrate just how serious consumers’ relationship with packaging really is.

Unboxing New Spiderman Battery-Powered Ride On Super Car 6V Test Drive Park Playtime Fun Ckn Toys

Prestige brands were pioneers in shifting the paradigm from “packaging as product housing” to “packaging as brand experience.” This phenomenon was no accident, and in fact was as painstakingly considered as many of the products luxury fashion houses create.

“To ensure your packaging presents your brand optimally, it is critical to understand quality control at every stage of the customer’s journey.”

 A more crafted, journey-focused approach to packaging allows brands to deliver semiotic messages to consumers that build powerful emotional bonds. It also helps reinforce points of difference, and can ultimately go a long way in justifying premium pricing. As the late, great Steve Jobs said, “Packaging can be theater, it can create a story.”

Unboxing, unboxed: Apple packaging

We all know amazing packaging when we see it. So how do we create it? What makes opening a package an experience people want to share? Landor believes there are seven principles for designing truly “shareworthy” packaging experiences.

Principle 1: Create suspense and discovery

A layered unveiling process can create a heightened sense of suspense and make the gratification moment sweeter. Guiding the customer through the discovery of branded details—at every step of the unboxing—has the potential to create a stronger overall brand impression.

Principle 2: Make sound

There are multiple on-pack opportunities where sound can play a role. We need to consider these as they influence the perceived value of the product and thus the brand. The gentle whoosh when an iPhone box is opened suggests quality and precision, while the pop of a Pringles can signifies the crunchiness of the product. Material selection, construction methods, and manufacturing processes can all work together to create audible signatures that are distinctive to a brand.

As Steve Jobs said: “Packaging can be theater, it can create a story.”

Unboxing, unboxed: Pringles packaging
Image courtesy of Flickr user Mike Mozart.

Principle 3: Use scent

Fragrance is a powerful tool for brands in many markets. Though most prevalent in hospitality and retail design, it can provide brand recognition and identification instantaneously across a variety of verticals. Yet most products purchased online and offline are infused with “warehouse-scent.” Regrettably, this results in an olfactive disconnect for customers and a missed opportunity for the brand. Designing packaging to take advantage of the power of scent can transport customers and create memorable signature scent moments, regardless of environment.

Principle 4: Consider form

Think about the shape of your brand. Sharp angles, smooth curves, and beveled edges all communicate different attributes. Are you big and blocky, or sleek and elegant? It is imperative to remember that accessibility is paramount, so ensure that the ritual of unboxing is made easier through form—not more difficult.

Unboxing, Unboxed: Open orange box
Image courtesy of Flickr user Aybek Erkinov.

Principle 5: Encourage tactility

What does your brand feel like? Packaging is potentially the most tactile expression of your brand, so it is crucial that it feels right. For example, some of the key tactility codes for luxury brands are detailed embossing of uncoated stocks paired with metallic foils or varnishes. But whatever your category, creating intrigue through form, relief, and texture means more engagement from the consumer.

Principle 6: Exercise restraint

As new technologies rapidly develop, so too does the abundance of production techniques. It’s easy to get carried away with trying to incorporate all the latest bells and whistles into new packaging designs. However, successfully building brand awareness through packaging is a matter of restraint, not excess. It’s about choosing the right expressions for your brand and projecting a look and feel that is hardwired to the brand narrative.

Unboxing, unboxed: Francesca Romana Correale box design
Image courtesy of Flickr user Francesca Romana Correale.

Principle 7: Understand the journey your packaging goes on

No matter how well your brand communicates with consumers at other touchpoints, the package is “the brand in the hand.” Quite simply, it must deliver on its brand promise. To ensure your packaging presents your brand optimally, it is critical to understand quality control at every stage of the customer’s journey. Understanding how climate impacts materials, print processes, and production is usually the weakest link.

Wrapping up (see what I did there?)

But seriously. The principles we’ve just explored are not, by any means, a cheat sheet to designing successful packaging. Instead, they serve as a set of considerations for designing packaging that engages all the senses.

Unboxing, unboxed: Packaging a product

By embracing these principles, you might not reach 190 million hits on YouTube, but you will create a stronger emotional bond with your customer. Ultimately, this leads to an unboxing experience that others will want to share.


This piece was originally published in Branding in Asia magazine (6 April 2017). Republished with permission.