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What brands should learn from the TikTok unboxing trend

The short video-sharing app TikTok has become an incredible success for all ages, and has broken records to being the fastest-growing social media network of all time, which has unsurprisingly led it to being one of the most interesting opportunities for advertisers.

Trends drive internet culture, and one of the biggest trends to rise from social media is a phenomenon known as “unboxing” or “unpacking” where influencers showcase their packages and (mostly gifted) goods via carefully crafted videos. These particular types of videos reach up to 105 million views, and counting. TikTok seems dedicated to this newly found craze as the 60 second videos perfectly amounts to what needs to be shown without losing the attention of its audience.

These unboxing videos that hold the hashtag #smallbusiness have an average of 141,735 views across 279 TikTok accounts, with the highest collective views at over 75 million according to statistics. What exactly is shown in these videos and how did they manage to reach such heights of fame?

The packaging and printing experts Where The Trade Buys calculated the most frequently used hashtags relating to the search terms “unpacking” and “packaging” using a criterion that included the views, accounts, shares and the number of times a hashtag had been used.

A share average has been calculated across 13 terms, with the likes of ‘#art’, ‘#toy’, ‘#smallbusiness’ and even ‘#asmr’ included. One video containing hashtags #art, #handmade and #smallbusiness together, achieved 943,900 views, and an ASMR (autonomous sensory meridian response) unboxing video uploaded by one user hit 6 million views and was shared over 6,000 times.

However, unboxing videos with the hashtag #prettypackaging gathered the highest average views, with 530,693 across just 8 accounts. One particular user, known as @WestMain actually went viral with a video using the ‘#prettypackaging’ and ‘#smallbusiness’ hashtags, managing to achieve 2.8 million views, 3,149 shares, and 1,728 comments—showing the efforts people go to in order to make eye-catching packaging worthwhile. This inevitably yields huge success in small business if their timing is right, and shows that effort goes a long way in catching potential consumers’ attention.

Unboxing small businesses

The unboxing videos that contain the hashtag ‘#smallbusiness’ have a viewing average of 141,735 with over 279 accounts on the platform, therefore achieving a collective viewership of over 75 million. The term achieved 533 occurrences, which makes it the most used term for these small businesses and that can only be good news.

What is further good news, is that these frequently used hashtags on highly engaged content often show no sign of slowing down when it comes to popularity, so more and more businesses are able to ride the wave of success that other businesses experience too.

TikTok wasn’t a total bystander in this development however, because during the first heights of the global pandemic the app launched its ‘Back-to-Business’ programme via its Business service, pledging $300 million worth of free ad credits to eligible users, with an individual amount of $300 available to spend on brand awareness and campaign promotion.

How does ASMR help unboxing videos?

The core of this unboxing strategy is heavily linked to generating relaxing and satisfying content such as pleasing visual videos that we watch mindlessly, and ASMR has a similar aim but through our ears. Therefore, ASMR and unpackaging combined have both taken the online world by a storm. One user called @seededtreasures, or Abigail Perry, managed to hit 6 million views and 6,000 shares with her unboxing ASMR clip.

This is all user-generated content (UCG), and it is quickly becoming the preferred strategy when it comes to marketing teams and individual brands positioning themselves. By teaming up with influencers that pick up a lot of attention from around the world, brand partnerships will only increase the awareness around their products, and therefore sell more products.

If the packaging that is being unboxed shows promising design, or if it’s personalised or hand made, and especially if it’s eco friendly given the times we live in, the product that is being unboxed will be shared far more often than generic and commonly accessible brands. All in all, evidence seems to show that the more creative you are, the higher chance you have of breaking the internet. Even if your product is top notch sustainable, tasty or aesthetically pleasing, whatever it might be, a rival product will gain far more traction if the unboxing process is worth taking a video of.

How TikTok is quickly becoming the number one social media app

For a great many of us, the prospect of a world without Instagram or Facebook is simply inconceivable. It is easier to imagine a reality in which oxygen is no longer free than to picture one in which likes and Stories are nonexistent. But the surging popularity of a new Chinese app called TikTok may be signalling the twilight of the Facebook app dynasty (including Instagram and Messenger) and the rise of a new ruler of the social media realm. In 2018, TikTok’s download rates surpassed those of Instagram and Facebook, and have continued to rise in the past few months throughout the U.S., Europe, and Southeast Asia. 

TikTok is one of the most recent creations by ByteDance—a Beijing based tech company that produces machine learning-enabled content platforms. TikTok’s first incarnation emerged in 2016 in the form of Douyin—a media app for sharing and creating videos exclusively for the Chinese market. In 2017, ByteDance merged the Chinese app Musical.ly (which was highly popular in the West) with Douyin to create TikTok, an app that resembles Snapchat but centres exclusively around enhanced micro-video content. The merge with Musical.ly proved to be seamless, as the majority of the former app’s users and influencers quickly adapted to TikTok. 

Initially, TikTok did not pose a significant threat to social media behemoths such as Instagram, Facebook, YouTube, and Snapchat. But the tide is rapidly turning.

Ensnared in myriad scandals, the public’s trust in Facebook has been steadily plunging, and along with it its stock value. Last year, the company lost $120 billion after warnings that its revenue growth will plummet. But sizzling scandals and stock-market undulations are not the only soft-spots of Facebook, as its primary flaw seems to be its inability to appeal to the youth. With its flagship app gradually becoming a virtual nursing home—where grandmas and millennials vent their scorn and stalk old lovers who may not even be alive at this point—and Instagram failing to penetrate the Gen Z market, the Facebook ‘family’ appears to be in the early stages of its downfall. For a moment, Snapchat seemed to be the next ‘it’ app, but that hope never materialised

This is where TikTok beats them all. The youth, which appears to be increasingly interested in the app’s features and responds favourably to its user interface is migrating to the platform en masse. 

Unlike other social media apps, TikTok’s function is fairly limited, as all it enables users to do is create 15-second videos and share them with their network. Yet ByteDance managed to tap right into the core of youth’s fascination with micro-video content that’s light and entertaining, by offering a wide variety of effects and editing options (something that’s lacking from Facebook and Instagram stories). And so TikTok serves Gen Z and soon Alpha precisely what they’re after—content that is live, short, potentially-viral, and, well… silly.     

The app’s popularity has been exploding over the past year. In 2018, TikTok was the fourth most downloaded non-game app, with 663 million new downloads, surpassing Instagram which gained 444 new downloads. In the App store alone, TikTok’s download rates exceeded those of Facebook, Messenger, and WhatsApp. Should the numbers remain steady, TikTok can be expected to surpass Facebook and Instagram in overall popularity worldwide (let us not forget that it also dominates the Southeast Asian market, something that Western apps are unable to do due to censorship barriers). 

The conquering of the social media landscape by TikTok could have several ramifications. Firstly, it would most likely alter the way in which the future generation communicates, with words and pictures replaced by short, heavily edited memes. 


It would also generate significant changes in the market, which currently relies heavily on the models of existing social media platforms, such as Instagram. In a TikTok-dominated world, influences, businesses, and corporations will have to find a new way to promote their products, capture the attention of buyers, and adapt to new metrics indicating popularity and profitability.  

Finally, what would be the consequences of having a Chinese company owning all our social-media data? This question may be too vague to answer with certainty, but China’s policies regarding censorship, surveillance, and curtailing of freedom of speech sure make this prospect unsettling (to put it mildly). 

On a more personal level, a TikTok takeover gives us a chance to reexamine our interaction with social media. Before replicating our virtual lives onto yet another platform we, the veterans of the social media revolution, must ask ourselves: where are we going with this? Do these platforms contribute to or impede our personal and spiritual growth? What toll have they been taking on our mental wellbeing? Can our thoughts and feelings and aspirations be effectively expressed in a 15-second video? And what would be the consequences for doing so?

The rise of TikTok gives us a golden opportunity to question. To prioritise. To reconsider the value of life beyond the screen.