The rise of the unboxing trend

We take a look at how the licensing industry is getting involved with the marketing initiative.

Over the past two years, one of the key trends to emerge in the toy marketing space has been that of unboxing. As formats go, it’s remarkably simple – the videos literally consist of toys being taken out of their packaging and demonstrated – but one which is also remarkably effective.

Argos is just one of the retailers which has embraced the trend on its YouTube channel. It has featured videos showing unboxings of toys for top brands including Twirlywoos, Teletubbies, Bing, The Furchester Hotel, Trolls and PAW Patrol among others, while its video for Hey Duggee (main image) has notched up over 890,000 views.

Unboxing is also a favourite with social influencers, including Tiana, the eight year old star of YouTube channel Toys AndMe. There are unboxing videos on the channel – which boasts over 1.6 million subscribers and over 1 billion views – for brands including Shopkins and Barbie. TLP is currently looking to extend Tiana’s online success into the consumer products space.

With such large viewing figures, it’s understandable that licensing and toy companies are now embracing it.

“The appetite for this type of content appears insatiable and shows no signs of slowing down any time soon,” Matt Rook, md of Hotwolf – which has just launched the new Urchinz channel (see separate box out below) – comments.


“It’s a very brave toy business that decides unboxing shouldn’t play a part in their marketing communications.

“If a brand wants to connect with kids they need to reach them with more than just traditional advertising routes,” Matt continues. “Unboxing videos can be an effective solution to this, giving brands the chance for their products to be played with in an entertaining environment, in a way that kids love. As the lines between advertising and brand content continue to blur, the world of unboxing offers the chance for kids to find out so much more about a toy that can ever be communicated within the confines of a 30-second TV ad. And watched and shared in a way that’s never been possible before.”

For Coolabi, unboxing formed an important part of its overall recent Clangers marketing campaign (see box out below).

Naomi Dare, head of digital for Coolabi, explains: “We know our target audience is on YouTube and they spend time on there as parents looking for preschool content, so are likely to be in the right mindset. We used several approaches to try to engage this audience – unboxing videos were one.

“Using the toys to create this sort of content is very cost effective, fast to produce, allows more freedom yet still has long-term value, too. We agreed a script/story that we thought was true to the brand and would engage the people watching, rather than the more traditional literal unboxing style, although that still seems popular too despite its simplicity.”

Both Naomi and Matt believe we will see more brands enter the unboxing space in different ways going forward, however, there are also challenges.

“With such a vast amount of content and channels, I think it’s harder to cut through now and generate large audiences without a decent media spend or collaborating with channels that generate large views already,” says Naomi.

Matt, meanwhile, points out that brands could be concerned about a lack of editorial input or control when working with an existing unboxing channel.

The trick, of course, is to strike the right balance between editorial integrity and brand inclusion, just like any marketing medium. It seems that we’ll be seeing much more of unboxing as we progress through 2017.



The idea for Urchinz came about when Matt and Jamie [Lennox, fellow Hotwolf founder] had a discussion with Tristan Brooks at specialist children’s media agency Arena Azure, and realised that there was a gap in the unboxing market for a channel to engage children in a different way.

“We wanted to do something original, more professional for brands and more engaging for our target audience,” explains Matt. “So we pushed the (space) boat out and created Urchinz – an unboxing channel with high production values and a cast of fun aliens.”

The duo already knew Matt Lester, sales director at SuperAwesome, who also loved the idea and came on board. This means that each episode will enjoy the full support of the SuperAwesome Marketplace, with guaranteed views. “This allows the content to be amplified far beyond its home on YouTube, in a safe environment, loved by millions of kids,” says Matt.

Urchinz is currently in discussion with all the major toy manufacturers, with the first two brands on board being Hasbro’s Nerf (pictured above) and Character Options’ Skeleton Blast.

“There are no restrictions on who we can partner with, so we’re super keen to work with licensed brands,” Matt continues. “This is a channel we want kids to love, so the channel would feel incomplete without some of the world’s best loved toys and games.”


‘YouTube is a key destination’

As part of its wider marketing campaign for Clangers, Coolabi identified that YouTube was a key destination to reach parents with preschoolers together.

Naomi explains: “We had seen the success of channels like ToyTrains4U who made some videos with Clangers toys earlier in 2016, that attracted hundreds of thousands of views, and wanted to try our own.”

Coolabi chose to work with Wildbrain to produce and distribute two Clangers unboxing videos. “We briefed them to create engaging stories in the unboxing style, using some of the Clangers figurines as they are so suited to role-play and story-telling, while ensuring that the overall theme of kindness was still at the heart of each story,” Naomi continues.

Wildbrain ran paid advertising across selected keywords and search terms, as well as retargeting people who had already watched relevant content on their other channels.

The unboxing videos generated over 380,000 views, three times more than what Coolabi had expected, with 75% of these being organic views, rather than views via ad spend.

This feature originally appeared in the spring 2017 edition of Licensing Source Book. Click here to read the full publication.

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