Pandora's Unboxing: A Study of Unboxing Videos in the Consumption Environment


Student thesis: Doctoral Thesis

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Award date9 Oct 2019


This thesis examines the phenomenon of unboxing videos, focusing on consumers’ interaction with the videos, and how they fit into the consumption environment. I define unboxing videos as distinct from review videos with their focus on the opening and removal of packaging in the videos, as well as the immediacy and spontaneity of emotional response in that situation. Using a mixed methods approach, this thesis is the first to examine unboxing videos in depth, using practice theory to do so. It also adds to the current understanding of persuasion knowledge in the area of influencer marketing, acknowledging the role of the influencer in brand attitude ratings. First, it examines the role of unboxing videos, and consumers’ own unboxings in the consumption process in consumers’ words, using a combination of interviews, videos and comments posted in reply to videos. Then, this thesis takes an experimental approach to understanding how sponsorships affect the consumers response to an unboxing video.

The third chapter uses qualitative methods and a practice theory approach to understand unboxing videos’ place in the consumption environment, and defines the actual act of unboxing as a consumption practice, contributing to practice theory in noting the importance of vicarious experiences in practice building. Unboxing videos act as a point of communication, not just of information related to the product and its use, but also to formalise and indeed normalise the accepted process of unboxing for consumers to repeat with their own purchases. Furthermore, consumers identify unboxing videos as a point of emotional connection with a product when compared to a review. Even when a purchase is not intended or planned, the unboxing video still acts as an emotional, entertaining point of connection with the featured product. The host of an unboxing video, the unboxer, is also important in building and maintaining this consumption practice. Trust and credibility were found to be important factors in building the overall positive experience of an unboxing video.

In the fourth chapter, I use experimental methods and focus on the use of sponsorships by firms in unboxing videos, and the effect on brand attitude by the viewing consumer. When a video is sponsored, consumers’ attitude towards the brand is negatively affect. The effect of product type (hedonic vs utilitarian) was tested, and the effect holds true for utilitarian products, while it is neutralised for hedonic products. Finally, the unboxer themselves was considered in the relationship, suggesting a link between attitude to the unboxer and the brand attitude. Perceived credibility mediates the relationship between sponsorship transparency and brand attitude, showing that use of sponsorships affects the audience’s perception of the unboxer’s credibility, which in turn affects the brand attitude. As unboxers fall inside the category of influencers, firms must be wary of this pitfall, even when dealing with the more emotionally laden style that unboxing videos use.

Further opportunities for research in this area exist in examining further factors in the multidimensional environment that is YouTube, and specifically the influencer video side of YouTube.