“Staying In is the new Going Out” – 6 ways to create user engagement with packaging

The Unboxing experience

What is an unboxing experience? Unboxing refers to the act of unpacking a box or product packaging. The unboxing experience is the memorable interaction a customer has when first unboxing a product for the first time. Think of the feeling you get at Christmas or on your birthday and the emotions you feel when opening a beautifully wrapped package. This emotional connection is what a great unboxing experience taps into.

Over recent years, the unboxing experience has been increasingly harnessed by brands as an extra marketing tool to their customers (helped by the rise in social media influence, of course). It could even be argued now as a necessity to stand out from the crowd, rather than just an added bonus.
For brands such as Glossier, Apple and Dollar Shave Club (pictured in order below), the unboxing experiences they provide have become a key aspect of their brand image and, in turn, their customers’ expectations.

There are many ways to create a memorable unboxing experience. Something vital to remember however is the importance of relevance to your brand image and ethos. It is also necessary to consider the why– what are you trying to achieve with this interaction? Further sales? Increased publicity? Once you conquer the why, you can focus on the how.

1. Create Drama

Pop Ups

Incorporating pop-ups into packaging can not only amp-up the drama, but also add another tactile and interactive element to the unboxing experience, breathing further life and emotion into the connection made with the user.

Urban Decay Limited Edition palette: Game of Thrones (sold out).

Urban Decay Limited Edition Palette: Alice in Wonderland Through the Looking Glass (sold out).

One brand who have really embraced the power of the pop-up in their packaging is Urban Decay, with their special edition eye-shadow palettes. This works well for them (they usually sell out pretty fast!) as the customer will keep using the packaging, with the intention for them to feel that emotional connection every time they use the palette.


A layered unboxing experience is a great way to give the user longer to connect with the package when unboxing, by providing more for them to “play with”. This below example from Google shows how layering the elements of the package contents in both a functional and aesthetically pleasing way can create a dramatic and lasting impression.

Harnessing sense engagement through packaging is something we have explored on our blog before; click here to read our article on Multi-Sensory Packaging.

2. Content is King

The Online Connection

In today’s tech-orientated world, it should come as no surprise that consumers have seen a dramatic rise in the use of interactive technology such as AR (Augmented Reality) & QR Codes within packaging. By incorporating this technology, the user can gain access, almost instantly, to far more information than what can be printed on or placed within the package itself. This gives the opportunity for a more thrilling overall experience.
With consumers of today being used to having everything at the touch of their fingertips, this type of interaction in packaging feels easy and comfortable for most now, especially when linked to familiar social media platforms. Utilizing this technology can also be a great way for brands to gain and track valuable insights on user engagement and preferences.

Watch the campaign video here
Watch the campaign video here

The two examples shown above are of AR interaction via the Shazam app (originally used to identify songs through your mobile microphone). Bombay Sapphire (left image) launched a campaign whereby consumers could access cocktail recipe videos upon scanning the code. Fanta’s (right image) “Teen Takeover” campaign was targeted at the younger generation; with access to filters on Snapchat and an interactive prize-draw. Both of these campaigns have since been hailed for their success.

On Pack Additions

Packaging inserts
A packaging insert refers to any additional items of packaging within the outer package itself, from leaflets with additional information, to fitments that separate the products inside. Generally, inserts are used to provide extra value to the unboxing experience and products within. Inserts in the form of discount codes are particularly popular for gaining customer loyalty. Although simple inserts are an easy way to exceed customer expectations, the art of unboxing has risen in popularity so much in recent years, raising many consumers’ expectations with it- so the more creative you can get the better! For a full range of insert examples, Shopify have a great article which you can read here.

Packaging insert examples from Shopify.

Video Screen Brochures
With continued advancements in tech, video screen brochures are growing in popularity- especially in the luxury sector. Simply put, a video brochure is a box or card with either a TFT or LCD screen which, upon opening the card or package, plays a short video with colour and sound. This is a great way to raise the perceived value of the product or service being marketed, as well as giving the opportunity to connect with the user through storytelling by providing more interactive information than what can be traditionally conveyed within printed packaging. Click here to read Media Plant’s article on the capabilities of video screen brochures.

Cocoa Cola for the Olympics: an example of a large video screen brochure, complete with removable insert to reveal products inside.
Aston Martin: an example of a “video business card” – a popular small format for a video brochure.

3. Coherent Design

The Main Event

With any form of packaging, it’s paramount to remember the focus should be on bringing out the best of the product or service within. As mentioned previously, starting with understanding why the package is being made and what it’s purpose is will give the best insight to how the packaging can be utilized best to give the desired outcome.

Design and Messaging Coherence

There are so many reasons for creating an engaging unboxing experience, from distributing promotional materials and product testers/samples to increase brand loyalty, to more corporate settings such as sales-packs aiming to capture buyers to sell a product in retail, or even welcome-packs for new clients or employees within a business. All of these examples have different desired outcomes and so the packaging should be designed to reflect as such, always with the promoted product or service at the forefront of the designer’s mind. Think about what messages you can convey to help reach your end-goal for the campaign.

It’s also important to ensure your package reflects your brand’s general ethos and voice, including choice of materials. For example, it would be confusing for a brand focused on environmental well-being to include lots of single use plastic in their package!

Packaging for UK brand Zero Waste Path.

4. The unboxing holy grail

Put Yourself in their Shoes

When creating packaging for a specific desired outcome, the focus should be on the user and how they are likely to interact with it. By putting yourself in their shoes, you can “walk through” the unboxing experience yourself and, in turn, gain a deeper understanding of what will produce the results you are after.
For example, if the package is being used to welcome a new employee to your business, it’s important to think about what products and information could be included to make their transition into the company more comfortable and efficient.

An example of an “employee welcome pack” from Brainly.

A user unboxing live on social media streaming is the ultimate holy grail. If you can understand what makes your user tick, then getting a wow is one thing, but to share that wow on social media is another thing all together. This kind of response can really prove that it was a job well done

“oh my god, look what my employer just sent me!!”

Don’t Forget the ‘Call To Action’

Whatever the end goal is for your package, if you forget to include a clear Call To Action (i.e. telling the user what to do next), the entire campaign could be lost on them. The key here is to engage with the user on a deeper level than simply providing information. Remember; the easier and more attractive you make your desired journey for them, the better!

An example of using a QR code to create a more engaging CTA (Call To Action) from Elle Boutique.

5. Don’t Commoditise, Add Value

Think About Budget

Before launching into designing your package, remember your budget. If you’re creating an unboxing experience in lieu of an event, promotional or otherwise, once you take into consideration the true costs of organising and executing a live event, a well packaged gift as an alternative can be great value for money. If your campaign is aimed at employees within your business as an event alternative, ultimately a social event is truly about keeping employees on side and connected. You’ve spent money training them and you want them to feel valued, so doing this right is really important!
If however, your unboxing experience focusses on a product straight to consumer, when promoting a luxury item (or if you’re confident the campaign will result in high amounts of profit) you can probably afford to spend more time and money on an elaborate unboxing experience. If you’re a start-up though and giving away freebies already within the package, it may not be cost-effective to spend thousands on the packaging itself. This may seem an obvious point, but it’s easy to get carried away with the design before realising it’s actually not affordable.

Succulent Studios: monthly subscription box.

BMW: winter campaign to promote cold weather tyres.

Louis Vuitton: limited edition mooncakes.

The above examples show how packaging can be impactful at every level of budget, from start-up to luxury global empire!

Well Defined Objectives

When appointing a packaging designer for any project, it’s necessary that they receive a clear brief and understand the intent for the campaign. This will not only ensure that they too can design with the end-goal in mind, but also mitigates the risk of losses in time and money from amends and re-designs. It will also save yourself time, as a clear brief is less likely to result in you having to continually step-in to make changes throughout the design process.

GIF series by Deekay Kwon.

6. Talk to the Experts

And finally, while we all think we’re experts, we’re not. It’s important that the right people are doing the right things at the right time. This way you can ensure your project isn’t rushed and that money isn’t wasted.

If you’ve considered all the above, why not talk to a specialist now? We’re not right for everyone, but please call us if you’d like to find out more about how we can help. Get in touch here or call us on +44(0) 1527 31 30 40

*Gifs and images in this post sourced from Google & Pinterest unless otherwise stated.

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