Pay-as-you-go mobile phones are a fast-growing segment of the mobile phone market in the U.S. Based in Irvine, CA, Boost Mobile LLC, a division of Sprint Nextel Corporation, offers premium pay-as-you-go wireless phones and services to more than 4.5 million customers with an ever-expanding line of products.
When Boost decided to develop a versatile package that could merchandise their existing products while allowing for future line extensions, they elicited the help of New York City 's Swerve Inc. and managing partners Robert Croft and Martin Short. Croft and Short were excited about the project because of the broad range of ideas that were put on the table when planning the package. They saw the project as a challenge to deliver a blend of ergonomics and engineering that would serve the retail environment needs and customer needs alike.
The key to opening
The goals of the project brought together a broad range of requirements, where Boost wanted the package to: accommodate all current and future SKUs; consolidate the brand; show broad diversity at retail; display the product; have retail orientation options; make it easy to open; create a "reveal" experience during opening; make it easy to reclose securely; construct a handy carrying case; improve pilfer resistance; and maximize a broad billboard facing. "It needed a lot of versatility," admits Croft.
The opening mechanism became a critical component that Swerve believed could make all the other requirements possible. Swerve pursued an injection-molded package because it would allow more engineering possibilities. One retail aspect that had to be taken into account is the fact that sometimes the package is opened by the store staff, activated, and then returned to the customer. Boost wanted a package that would reclose securely and serve as a handy carrying case after opening.
The hybrid solution involves "side" caps with strip seals that secure the sides. A sturdy tab holds the strip seal in the sealed position, similar to those found on the lids of large plastic drums often used for five-gallon paint containers. To open, a snip with scissors releases the tab, and pulling the strip around the outside releases the hinged inner package where the phone is cradled. "It's quite a cool sequence of reveal," says Short.
Versatile today and tomorrow
Russell Rommelfanger, Boost Mobile senior designer, says Boost has a youthful, energetic brand platform, and the name is synonymous with urban lifestyles and X Games-type sports. Rommelfanger says that Boost wanted to do something drastic with the packaging to make more stylish and user-friendly. He was excited about the Swerve proposal to have one standard opening method that would instill confidence in the customer.
"I think when people buy things, they really want to get to the product," Rommelfanger explains. "Often, people try to get into the package so many different ways." One standard opening method lets the manufacturer control the way the package is treated and control the "reveal" experience. Swerve and Boost believe that the opening system is relatively intuitive, but a pictogram and text explains the proper technique. When closing, the hinged package snaps back together, and the customer is never exposed to any sharp edges. "You feel like it's still new to you," says Short.
The phone is front and center before and after opening, and the inside of the package can be modified to accommodate new phone sizes and new components. Swerve and the graphics team at Boost collaborated closely on the details of the design, adjusting and recommending changes. For instance, Boost and Swerve coordinated so that the color burst on the back of the manual would form a halo around the phone in the package.
Partners in mind
Rommelfanger explains that the Boost Mobile line and sales were growing so fast that a change was necessary. He believes that one of the successes of the project was the way the packages help consumers shop, guiding them to the product that is right for them. It is a forward-looking system that will accommodate any foreseeable line extensions.
Croft sums up the collaborative relationship: "By accessing a creative partner, what you get is the ability to merge disciplines together to reach solutions that you wouldn 't otherwise have reached." For instance, the clear plastic core of the package is made from 100% recycled PET material, and the polypropylene black end caps are made from 35% post-consumer sources.
"Every little bit helps when it comes to the environment," says Neil Lindsay, v.p. of product management, Boost Mobile. "And with 92% of youth trendsetters viewing the environment as the No. 1 issue that is personally important to them, our goal is to have all Boost phone packaging made from 100% recycled material."
Retailers can merchandise the package in one of three ways—vertical, horizontal, or on a peg. An extra injection molded plate was added to reinforce the hang hole—a project requirement for pilfer resistance. "What you end up with is a really robust system," says Croft. The package can be assembled anywhere, filled anywhere, and sealed anywhere. Before assembly, the components even store and ship efficiently, and the two side caps are interchangeable.