There are many ways to engage consumers with online video, whether you’re embracing Instagram and Reddit or six-second ads. Increasingly, though, brands are also investing in social media influencers. Last summer the World Federation of Advertisers (WFA) reported that 65% of international brand advertisers plan to increase their spending on influencer marketing. Their goal? To boost brand awareness (86%), reach targeted new audiences (74%), and improve brand advocacy (69%).
One strategy marketers use to maximize the influencer trend is enlisting these personalities to create videos that showcase their products. When an influencer whom your customers love unboxes a new item, shows off their shopping haul, or opens a mystery package from a company, they can become an ideal spokesperson for your brand.
One of the most prolific influencer marketing formats is the unboxing video. These are simple in nature: influencer opens box, influencer removes product, influencer gushes about it on camera. Still, unboxing videos have become a cornerstone of YouTube marketing campaigns.
In the words of culture and entertainment resource Polygon, which analyzed this video concept as part of last year’s The New Genres: Video in the Internet Age exhibit at New York’s Museum of the Moving Image, unboxing videos “provide a vicarious experience for the viewers by capturing the excitement of unwrapping a new product.” According to Polygon, unboxing content arrived on the scene in 2004 when bloggers began photographing their unboxing experiences, but the first unboxing video wasn’t uploaded until about 2006.
While unboxing videos can feature virtually any product, they’re most popular for toys and tech. Shorr Packaging, which analyzed more than 1,500 YouTube user channels last year as part of a study on influencer marketing, discovered children’s toys and phones/phone accessories account for the most uploaded unboxing videos. These categories are wildly popular among viewers, too. Since it was published in late September of 2018, YouTuber Lewis Hilsenteger’s unboxing video of the iPhone XS and XS Max has received more than 4.6 million views. Ryan ToysReview’s unboxing of the Crazy Cafe board game was viewed 9.2 million times in one year.
Why It’s Good for Brands
For brands, the consumer appeal of this type of content represents an opportunity to generate valuable interest in their goods. “Having looked at hundreds of these videos, especially by top influencers, there seems to be a very natural, symbiotic relationship at play here,” says Andy Kerns, creative director at marketing agency Digital Third Coast, which collaborated with Shorr Packaging on the research and analysis for its study. “On the side of the social influencers…they’re getting paid to do what they love and what comes naturally to them. On the brand side, social influencers offer a very enticing combination of authenticity, engaged audience, and low cost.”
Compared with traditional forms of advertising, Kerns says, the potential return on investment is huge. “If you think of an old format, like a magazine page layout, it’s expensive and it’s coming from the brand’s voice directly. Some people who flip through the magazine will be good prospects, others won’t. With a YouTube video,” he explains, “the cost is negligible to the brand, the authenticity is much higher, and the audience is hyper-focused.”
Similar to unboxing videos, haul videos are another concept that attracts viewers like moths to a flame. Polygon estimates haul videos date back to 2007. While unboxing videos often feature toys and more expensive items like consumer technology, haul videos tend to focus on mid-range purchases like makeup and clothing. Social influencers produce the vast majority of haul videos. These videos are often partnerships with brands in an effort to increase awareness and sales.
“Haul and unboxing videos are popular on social media because they offer the audience an inside look into how the product functions from a person they admire,” says Stephanie Cartin, co-founder New York-based social media agency Socialfly. “People follow these influencers because of their engaging personalities, expertise on niche subjects, and the quality of their content.”
How Brands Benefit
Like Kerns, Cartin believes these videos often feel “more authentic and meaningful” than a commercial or other traditional ad format. “The visual medium gives the audience the chance to see the product being used by someone first-hand to inform their purchasing decision,” she says. “With video content, users gain a detailed explanation of the product, and will know what to expect including everything from the packaging to the final result.”
Sometimes, influencers take their viewers along to the retailers where they get their hauls. But, your brand doesn’t have to be a retail store to be involved. In 2017, when she was pregnant with twins, London-based influencer Poppy Dinsey partnered with BabyCentre to create a baby item-themed haul video. Her video has over 13,000 views. Last year, YouTuber AlishaMarie created multiple videos related to her Black Friday shopping experience. One of her videos showed her unpacking the items she purchased. That haul video was sponsored by online luxury consignment shop The RealReal and received more than 1.8 million views.
“Sent Me” Videos
This is the newest addition to the influencer video trend.”Sent me” videos combine unboxing videos with the anticipation of unpacking a new haul. Companies provide influencers with exclusive items, often keeping their contents a secret. In some cases, the influencers then give away the goods through a contest for their viewers and fans.
According to video marketing company Tubular Insights, one video featuring YouTuber Ali-A opening a secret package from the makers of video game sensation Fortnite was viewed 5.4 million times over 30 days.
Making it All Work
Cartin recommends that brands choose influencers who produce quality content and attract an audience that aligns with their customer base. “It’s crucial to ensure that your video is high quality and well lit,” she says. “In addition to the aesthetic of the video, focus on using the correct keywords and optimizing the video so that it appears higher in search results.” She adds that videos should be cross-promoted on other social media channels to drive additional views.
Besides exposing consumers to your products and building excitement about your brand, there’s another advantage to these three types of influencer content. Generally speaking, the more people who view it, the better it will become. According to Cartin, consumers are now so familiar with unboxing, haul, and “sent me” videos—along with sponsored content in general—that they expect a good viewing experience. This has “raised the bar for influencers to provide honest, high-quality, and authentic reviews.”
Those honest reviews build trust with consumers, which can translates into trust in your brand. And therein lies the secret to a more effective influencer marketing campaign.