LESSONS FROM A DRONE
A long time ago (2016), in a family room very nearby, I saw all of the Star Wars films for the first time. While I can appreciate the films, the super fandom of the series will always be a mystery to me. For others close to me, the newest Star Wars films are a must-see on opening weekend. So when I heard about Star Wars drones that can actually battle each other, I knew I had the perfect gift to give.
Remote-controlled toy manufacturer Propel teamed up with Disney to give fans a chance to pilot their own starfighter or speeder bike. Based on the detailed re-creation of a classic – and general disdain for the Dark Side – I chose to gift the X-wing fighter. Luckily I was present to witness the “unboxing experience”.
The moment the wax seal is taken off the drone’s box and the top lid is lifted, the packaging takes on a life of its own. The display case lights turn on. The main theme score blasts from hidden speakers. You feel as if you are transported to the galaxy itself. It was such an unexpected shock that I know I will remember the moment forever. (Pro tip: don’t open the box at 11pm when others are sleeping. The music is LOUD and it takes a few minutes to figure out how to stop it.)
I had never heard of a packaging company being able to create such an elaborate experience for the consumer before the product is even in use. For me, opening the box was more exciting than seeing the fighter zoom around at 35mph. Memorable moments like this are what every brand hopes to achieve so that they can organically create a buzz through word-of-mouth and, more importantly, on the internet.
If you search “Star Wars drone box” on Youtube you will see hundreds of users sharing their unboxing experience. So many people were wowed by the packaging that standard video reviews of the drone turned into a free source of advertising for the product as a whole. Much like last year’s Hatchimals craze, (glorified stuffed animals) the packaging of the drone became more of a draw than the drone itself.
But Propel went a step further. You don’t throw the box away once it is opened. Propel was smart enough to design the box for further use as storage or display case. When the box is used as a display for the drone, the Propel brand name is also constantly in view. Brand recognition skyrockets even if the consumer doesn’t consciously realize that the name is in view.
Developing a completely new product isn’t always necessary to show innovation. Sometimes a simple packaging re-design is all it takes to keep your product relevant and in the forefront of media attention. Take Johnnie Walker: earlier this year they released a limited edition Jane Walker version of their iconic whisky. The reasoning behind this packaging move is well aligned to their tagline “Keep Walking” and their overall progressive history. It was especially smart to release this edition during Women’s History Month. “Limited edition” in itself puts pressure on the consumer to give in to the impulse buy in case the item is no longer available next time they are looking for it.
Whether it be a straightforward but purposeful redesign, or a complex use of technology, putting extra money into a cool packaging concept can launch a product into the must-have category. After all, without compelling packaging, a Hatchimal is just a stuffed animal, whisky is whisky, and a Star Wars drone is just a remote-controlled toy.