The unboxing phenomenon has become an essential tool in the marketing of cosmetics and beauty products. For those unfamiliar with the format, unboxing videos are when YouTubers share the unpackacking of a special product or group of products. Unboxing videos are one of several formats native to YouTube that have grown up along with the YouTube generation. Originally they were focused mostly on tech products - people wanted to share their enthusiasm for their new purchases, such as a new iPhones or computers, and to celebrate the products.

Beauty Vloggers and the YouTube Unboxing Phenomenon

Over time, beauty vloggers have adopted the format, and today unboxings are a commonly-used video style for beauty vloggers. And they a major driver of overall views of videos beauty products.

The vast majority of views on YouTube about cosmetics are from beauty vloggers, rather than from the YouTube channels of the brands themselves. Brands have taken note of this trend and are engaging with influencers in various ways. Brands will send vloggers new products to try out, and in some cases they will sponsor beauty vloggers to talk about their products. The trend is having a major influence on this segment of the consumer packaged goods industry.

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Beauty vlogger uboxings generally relate to beauty sample subscription services, some of which the vloggers pay for and some which are free. These subscription services are usually monthly services that send either small samples or deluxe-size samples of the product. Product size is important to the vloggers, who will usually demonstrate notably increased enthusiasm on the rare chance that they receive full-size products.

Some of the most popular beauty boxes are Beauty Box 5, BoxyCharm, Glossybox, Ipsy, and Birchbox. Also there's a lot of popular NYX unboxings related to their FACE Awards, but these are are a combination of beauty and lifestyle products that are sent only to competition finalists.

What's in the Beauty Box?

At Octoly, we did a study of one of the major players, Birchbox, to see what people were saying (see our previous study of NYX here). Birchbox is an important influencer of a number of brands, because each time an influencer does an unboxing, they mention each of the brands.

We found with Birchbox videos on YouTube that there were 600,000 organic views on their channels and 2 million paid views. But their earned media views (videos created by influencers on their own channels) totaled 14.5 million. In the Birchbox brand footprint, 3.6% of the views were organic on their own channel, 11.7% were paid views on their own channel, and 84.7% were from YouTube creators' videos.

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In this video, "Unboxing: Birchbox vs. Ipsy - JUNE | eleventhgorgeous" the "eleventhgorgeous" sisters did a comparison unboxing. Eleventhgorgeous has had a significant impact on the share of voice of Birchbox and the brands included within it each month. These two women have driven 34% of all earned media audience for the brand, almost 5 million views, twice that of the brand's organic and paid footprint of 2.6 million views.

Not All Unboxing Video Reviews are Positive

Not all reviews or comments will be positive. This review by "Bailey B" called "January ELF Beauty Bundle Unboxing & Review" is notably critical of some of the products. When brands have only a minority voice on YouTube, they have to be able to weather this criticism and learn from it by working with creators to market their products better, and, in some cases, modify the products. Some common complaints from influencers include the size of samples - they would usually prefer at least the deluxe sample size.

For YouTube beauty vloggers, their authenticity is the key to their brand. They know that their fans will only watch them if they feel they are being honest. So often they will decline sponsorships for products they don't believe in. Sample boxes are ways of getting these influencers to try new products without requiring a big commitment from either the creator or the brand. In one video, "Ipsy vs. Boxycharm | August 2014" Jessica of "JAMbeauty89" sums up her policy this way:

You guys know me, especially if you have been watching me for a while. I always give it to you straight and tell you whether it's good or not, whether I'm paying for the item or not.

So clearly, not all influencers are enthusiastic as "BeautyPolice101," but this video "Nyx Unboxing Haul Round 2♥" is an incredible example of just how excited a YouTube creator can get in an unboxing. In this video, she has won these products by being a finalist in the NYX FACE Awards. Watch the beginning of the video how she runs downstairs to get her UPS box.

It is tempting to want to work only with the top YouTube influencers, and indeed they can have very powerful voices. But they also have many brands wanting to work with them. Through outreach campaigns to up-and-coming beauty influencers, brands can build their share of voice in total, and grow as the creators themselves grow their audiences. Sample boxes are an excellent way of doing this.