13 September 2019

Research pick: Superficially satisfying spending - "Rich unboxing experiences: complexity in product packaging and its influence upon product expectations"

The overuse of packaging is a growing environmental problem in terms of resource use and waste production. Unfortunately, interesting and intriguing packaging is a crucial part of the modern approach to marketing and is perceived by many consumers, particularly those buying high-end goods, such as smartphones and other electronic gadgets as an essential part of the purchase experience.

The notion of a “rich unboxing experience” as infantile as that might sound is discussed in detail in the Journal of Design Research. Jieun Bae Busan of the National Science Museum in Busan, and James Self and Chajoong Kim of the Department of Industrial Design, at UNIST, in Ulsan, also in South Korea explore the influence of complexity in packaging design, defined as complexity of action and transformation, upon product appraisal at an unboxing phase of product life cycle.

Their surveillance of the market’s response to packaging reveals as one might expect that the complexity of product packaging significantly influences how the consumer appraises the product they have purchased and what might be described as the product’s “personality”. The findings contribute to a greater understanding of the role of packaging in increased expectations and delight as opposed to dissatisfaction, buyer’s remorse, one might say. The findings thus have implications for the use of complexity of action and transformation in product packaging design.

Unfortunately, it seems that the rich unboxing experience is probably here to stay at least for certain types of product unless companies and consumers can negotiate a position where satisfaction with a product is based solely on the product itself rather than the layers of wrappers in which it comes to the possession of the buyer.

Bae, J., Self, J.A. and Kim, C. (2019) ‘Rich unboxing experiences: complexity in product packaging and its influence upon product expectations‘, J. Design Research, Vol. 17, No. 1, pp.26-46.

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