'Unpacking' the Mystery Box Trend

'Unpacking' the Mystery Box Trend

With the staggering competition of the retail marketplace, brands are going above and beyond to grab their customers’ attention.

Mystery boxes are one way a handful of leading luxury packaging companies achieve an online following—and more attention as a result. This trend taps into the nature of thrill-seeking customers and has its roots in the unboxing trend, a phenomenon that has gone viral countless times.

The enticing mystery box might give us critical insights into the future of shopping. Let’s dive deeper into how this trend began, where it’s going, and ways it can help position your company for growth.

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The Unboxing Trend

Since the mystery box trend stemmed from the unboxing craze, it’s helpful to understand some history of how unboxing started and how it’s helped companies gain significant popularity and profits.

Unboxing is exactly what it sounds like: removing products from the packaging they arrived in. However, unboxing is much more than just opening a box. How your product is presented to a purchaser can determine whether they become a loyal and enthusiastic customer.

Today, the unboxing experience is an essential marketing tool and a customer expectation. Unboxing has become a major social media trend, presenting significant marketing potential. Many consumers share their unboxing experiences on social media platforms, and some of those videos have gone viral. Studies reveal that product packaging has a massive influence on people’s future purchasing decisions.[1]

Essentially, the mystery box trend takes the thrill of unboxing to the next level, offering even greater opportunities for social media attention and an online following.

What is a Mystery Box?

Mystery boxes are packages that customers receive without knowing precisely what’s inside, a twist that offers enormous marketing potential for your company to create an unforgettable unboxing experience. Generally, customers can choose a specific category or type of products, but the particular items stay secret until they are unpacked. The fun and surprise of unboxing a mystery package heightened during the global pandemic, as shoppers couldn’t go and browse retail stores or get their shopping fix in other ways.

How a mystery box is designed depends on the company. Some brands offer a collection of items, while others package only one or two products that fit into the category a customer has chosen, such as beauty, tech, or home goods.

The mystery box trends hugely vary amongst product types and costs. Historically, mystery boxes have focused on inexpensive but enjoyable products, but the mystery box trend has recently spread to luxury products. For example, Toynk Toys offers a ‘Pop Culture Mystery Box’ and a ‘Super Mario Mystery Box’ that ranges between $29 and $49. BAPE ONLY Hypebeast Mystery Box + Shoes ranges from $99 to $50,000 for luxury shoes. Even Burger King offers a Mystery Box in partnership with DoorDash for food delivery.

How do Mystery Boxes Work?

As a company wanting to grow its online presence and customer base, you might wonder how mystery boxes can be a sustainable part of your business plan.

Ideally, each customer who receives a mystery box should have equal odds of gaining any of the products associated with the box. Safeguards should also be in place to ensure everyone has the same chance of receiving the most coveted item. Without a fair and transparent system, companies can risk losing their brand’s credibility.

The way to develop this system is largely based on the size of your company, how many goods can be included in the mystery box, and how many mystery box purchases you anticipate. Simple algorithms are the best way to answer these questions for most companies, though you also need to consider customer preferences in your algorithm.

To make money on your mystery boxes, be sure that the average cost of the box itself balances out the high- and low-end expenses of the products you selected if you plan on paying for the mystery box products. In this scenario, you pay for the individual products and the consumer pays for the mystery box as a whole. Depending on how you source your products and price your mystery box, you can set yourself up for decent profits on each box.

Along with the potential to directly make money on each box, the most significant benefit of participating in the mystery box trend is growing your brand’s visibility and customer base.

How Mystery Boxes Benefit Brands

Now more than ever, consumers want to be surprised and delighted by their purchases. How you package your products can make or break your success as a company, and mystery boxes can create significant buzz around your brand.

Mystery boxes can also get customers to try new and different products they might not have otherwise purchased. If your mystery box focuses on products directly from your company, they offer the opportunity to expose buyers to less popular items.

The unboxing video experience of mystery boxes also offers an incredible free marketing opportunity. According to Dotcom Distribution, 35.3% of consumers reported seeing an unboxing video in 2015, and this number rose to 36.8% only two years later. As a culture, we love to observe and feel part of other people’s experiences. Unwrapping a mystery box taps into this human desire and can launch your brand to an entirely new level.

As a company, the mystery box trend allows you to capitalize on customers’ desire to share their unboxing experience and spread brand awareness through your packaging.

Mystery Box Packaging

Whether it’s a mystery box, subscription box, or any other product, packaging is everything. Folded carton boxes are often a practical and attractive option, especially if you’re shipping small products or just a few items at a time.

Always consider how you can creatively print your branding design directly onto the packaging. Customers should recognize your brand immediately from the packaging alone, as this is when that initial emotional connection is made. You might do this by simply including your logo on the box itself, in a slogan, a pretty pattern, or an elegant design. However you do it, make sure your branding remains evident and consistent.

Also, think about how your products are presented once the package is opened. Your product presentation should be just as impressive and memorable as the packaging itself. You might also include freebies in your mystery box, inserts, or personalizations like a handwritten note.

Related Content: How to Choose the Right Packaging Company


If you’re ready to get in on the mystery box trend, remember the following:

  • The mystery box trend began with the unboxing trend, allowing thrill-seeking customers to share their anticipation for and experience of unboxing a package full of mystery products.
  • Mystery boxes are an incredible free marketing tool, as they have tremendous potential to grow your company’s brand on social media platforms.
  • Ensure your mystery boxes have safeguards in place so that every customer has the same chance of receiving coveted items.
  • Work closely with a packaging company that offers design consultation and graphic design support.

If done the right way, taking part in the mystery box trend can significantly benefit your brand, reputation, and profit margin.

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