Makeover Challenge

2015 Makeover Challenge Winning Team Reveal

Posted: December 29, 2015 by
Linda Casey

Form, function and style propel one Makeover Challenge competitor’s concepts to the win


Voting online and in person at this year’s Pack Expo Las Vegas and Luxe Pack Monaco shows, the Package Design community chose BrandFirst’s redesign concepts as best in class for the 2015 Makeover Challenge, sponsored by Neenah and co-sponsored by Caps57.

The agency was one of four teams, which re-imagined packaging for the Microsoft Lumia 435 phone offered by TELUS Communications Company, which is one of the largest brands to participate in the Makeover Challenge to date.

The fast-growing Canadian telecommunications company boasts $12.4 billion of annual revenue and 14 million customer connections, including 8.4 million wireless subscribers, 3.1 million wireline network access lines, 1.5 million high-speed Internet subscribers and 980,000 TELUS TV customers. In addition to its range of communications products and services, including wireless, data, Internet protocol, voice, television, entertainment and video, TELUS claims to be Canada’s largest healthcare IT provider.

It also aims to be a socially responsible company, TELUS team members and retirees have contributed more than $396 million to charitable and not-for-profit organizations and volunteered more than 6 million hours of service to local communities since 2000. Created in 2005 by president and CEO Darren Entwistle, TELUS’ 11 Canadian community boards and four International boards have led the company’s support of grassroots charities and will have contributed more than $54 million in support of 4,800-plus local charitable projects by the end of 2015, enriching the lives of more than 2.1 million children and youth.

Timeless appeal                                                                           

From the bright colors to the simplicity of messaging on pack, so much of the re-imagined concept appealed to voters. Overall, the comments focused on the approachable branding that steered clear of current visual fads and the smart approach to structural as well as visual design.

A large component of TELUS’ visual identity is the use of “critters,” to give an element of fun and make the brand approachable. Voters who chose BrandFirst’s concepts agreed that the use of the TELUS’ birds helped draw them to the packaging, and voters’ comments confirm TELUS’ brand direction continues to be on point.

TELUS was one of the most prepared brands to compete in the Makeover Challenge during my tenure as Package Design’s editor-in-chief. The TELUS team, led by Andrea Alasi, a product specialist in TELUS’ product marketing department, gave all four competitors an exhaustive creative brief accompanied by a plethora of written guidelines for everything from color and type use to the incorporation of the TELUS critters. These guidelines were supported by a vast amount of research about TELUS’ target market communicated through a variety of vehicles from group calls to Venn diagrams.

It pays to listen

Early in the competition, things were looking good for BrandFirst. TELUS’ cross-functional brand, marketing and design team strongly expressed a preference for the agency’s concepts. The group, created by Alasi, was chosen to address multiple points of influence in the packaging lifecycle and included internal and external marketing and design experts. They evaluated the competitors’ designs against the dual goals of communicating the TELUS brand and grabbing more attention from shoppers.

Alasi immediately noticed the design firm’s close attention to brand guidelines. “BrandFirst was the agency that stuck closer to what our current concept is,” she says. “They followed my brief very closely and got the TELUS brand onto the packaging.”

Voters appreciated this, noting that both the close-in and stretch concepts looked like they belonged to the same company. There was consistency in both packages, even though the close-in package is a windowed carton and the stretch-concept front panel has a door that swings open. Several in-person voters, during the Luxe Pack Monaco show, who were familiar with the TELUS brand, felt the BrandFirst concepts immediately “felt like Telus.”

Keeping it simple

The competitors’ use of the Telus critters scored high with voters, who said that matching the feature colors with the bird colors on the close-in concept made the messaging a quicker read. Others like the strategy of following the birds “to fly through the activation process” on the stretch concept, and appreciate the conversational yet upscale approach of the talk bubbles.

“Our farther-out concept features a big hero bird with its wing outstretched like it’s waving to you,” Morgan says. “But the conversations bubbles are positioned not so much like the bird is talking to you but the phone is talking to you. Instead, we have the birds doing more natural actions that make the phone buying and activating process more approachable.”

BrandFirst’s creative director Victor Hunt adds, “During the competitive audit, we noticed that none of TELUS’ competitors could articulate what the plan was in simple terms. If a consumer is choosing between two phones with similar aesthetic appeal, the one way to help them lean toward your brand is to articulate what exactly is the plan. So we tried to make that as simple as possible, setting up a one, two, three, four process and a non-complicated way to communicate that on package as well as on the website.”

Bilingual voters from Monaco, Canada and other countries familiar with the challenge of designing packaging with multi-lingual messaging without creating a cluttered look, also applauded BrandFirst’s clean-and-clear copy treatments. Several in-person voters noted that the BrandFirst prototypes’ structural design conveyed the concepts of quality and robustness well, and found it difficult to resist not opening the cartons because the glimpse of the tray system underneath intrigued them.

Advice for next year’s competitors

“One of the reasons that I think we won is that we really stuck to the brand, even our stretch concept is still something that TELUS can use,” Morgan says. “My advice for next year’s competitors is to communicate with the brand and ask every question that you can of the client. For us, the TELUS brand was established so it was important to make sure that we were really sticking to the brief but bring our own kind of flair. So we had to communicate clearly and often to make sure that we brought something new and different but stayed on brand.”

Hunt adds, “Never forget what the ultimate task is. Look from the brand’s perspective and really understand what the brand wants to communicate, pretend that you are the audience and then evaluate whether the message is on brand. Make the brand and audience your priorities.”

Morgan says, the hard work pays off in multiple ways. “We had a great time working on this project,” she remarks. “Interacting with TELUS was so nice, and it was amazing how supportive they were of all the agencies and how they were able to really break down what they liked about each competitors’ designs. It was so reassuring to hear directly from TELUS and through the magazine that we had really met what the brand was looking for! The long voting process also had us staying on top of our Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and social media presences, and we were able to use the opportunity to send out email blasts to our friends and family. We do a lot of social media, but the contest gave us the opportunity to do something different.”

Hunt adds, “Going through our creative process and putting it on center stage, and then having it do really well builds a foundation of confidence for our agency.”

Agencies interested in competing in next year’s contest can apply at, and CPGs interested in having their packaging re-imagined can apply at 

Package Design thanks Neenah, for sponsoring the Makeover Challenge. Their sponsorship enables us not to charge entry fees.

Neenah Paper, a premium paper company, has been an innovator in letterpress, colored and textured paper since 1873, and it acquired FiberMark North America Inc. and its world-class, fiber-based decorative covering materials and dyed-through paperboards this year. Today, Neenah Packaging boasts diverse range of capabilities, expertise and capacity to meet the premium needs of brands big and small by delivering distinctive consumer experiences that elevate brands’ multi-sensory approaches through color and tactile features. 

We would also like to thank Caps57, which quickly and accurately produced prototypes that showcased the Makeover Challenge’s competitors’ concepts and survived two international trade shows and all the shipping and baggage handling that happened in between.