Unboxing and Haul Videos: Selling the sizzle

It’s an intriguing quirk of human nature that we find watching somebody do something fun almost as enjoyable as doing it for ourselves. There’s speculation that this might have something to do with ‘mirror neurons‘ in our brain; when we see somebody doing something fun, the same pattern of neurons fires in our brain as […]

It’s an intriguing quirk of human nature that we find watching somebody do something fun almost as enjoyable as doing it for ourselves. There’s speculation that this might have something to do with ‘mirror neurons‘ in our brain; when we see somebody doing something fun, the same pattern of neurons fires in our brain as […]

It’s an intriguing quirk of human nature that we find watching somebody do something fun almost as enjoyable as doing it for ourselves. There’s speculation that this might have something to do with ‘mirror neurons‘ in our brain; when we see somebody doing something fun, the same pattern of neurons fires in our brain as in theirs. By watching them we share the experience on some level.

This, I think, goes some way to explaining a couple of interesting phenomena in social media:

Unboxing videos: popular amongst gadget blogs, these videos show the reviewer unpacking a brand new product, giving the audience a close up look at the all important out-of-box experience

Haul videos: the teenage girl’s version of unboxing videos, young women show off their most recent beauty and fashion purchases (their “haul”) on webcam, adding their own commentary on the products

Both of these types of video are wildly popular, especially hauling, with the most popular videos receiving millions of views. They offer a kind of vicarious consumerism. Buying things is fun, getting the product home and taking it out of its packaging is fun; watching somebody else do this allows people to experience a little buying-buzz without spending their own money.

Interest in ‘unboxing’ videos has increased exponentially since 2006

This chart shows the exponential increase in people searching for unboxing videos since 2006 (notice the spikes around Christmas); Google currently estimates 200,000 global searches per month just for the word ‘unboxing’ by itself, and obviously there is a much wider range of people using more specific searches. Unsurprisingly ‘iPad unboxing’ and ‘iPhone unboxing’ are two of the most popular  unboxing related search terms of the past year.

Unboxing videos can either be produced by consumers, or by gadget bloggers who will use review samples rather than purchased items. The consumer videos are more likely to be positive, since they are unlikely to be critical of something they’ve just purchased themselves, whereas bloggers will be more objective.

Haul videos tend to be more personality led, and individual ‘haulers’ can build up a loyal fanbase over time. The more popular videos receive millions of views and in the US the most high profile haulers have achieved celebrity status, signing deals with mainstream media studios.

The opportunity for brands

As much as these videos provide a psychological substitute for the actual purchasing experience, they are also powerful branding and sales tools. Having your product featured in one of these videos can help move the audience one or two stages further down the sales funnel.

Creating unboxing type videos for your own products is one option but in PR we’re all about earning third-party recommendation, so we think it’s better to build relationships with the right online influencers and encourage them to feature your products in independently produced clips. We all know that editorial reviews carry more weight than adverts, but peer-endorsement from consumers who have spent their own money on the product is so much more powerful again.

Think beyond the traditional product reviews programme, it’s no longer just about getting samples to people who are will produce positive articles or glossy photo-features, now you need to make sure you reach the people who will generate online video with genuine consumer-cred.

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