Rigid boxes are made of stiff paperboard, glued in place and covered with paper, leather or fabric wraps that can be dyed, printed, embossed, debossed and leaf stamped. Unlike folding cartons, which are shipped flat to be assembled at the converting plant, rigid boxes are assembled in advance and transported as a finished product.
Because they allow for extensive customization, can incorporate details like ribbons and magnets, and are strong enough to support heavy products, rigid boxes are generally used to protect small luxury goods such as cosmetics, jewelry, couture and personal electronics, as well as limited-edition items such as film, book and music collections, and top-shelf liquor.
As a rule, iconic brands are those that consumers instantly recognize, and as such, they impart to the consumer status, class and prestige. For instance, sporting a Rolex watch signifies the achievement of a high level of success; wearing a Cartier engagement ring indicates elegance and sophistication on par with British monarchy.
Similarly, Paris-based fashion house Hermès’ hand-stitched silk scarves carry tremendous cachet: In fact, these scarves have been worn by Queen Elizabeth II in a postage stamp, used by Princess Grace Kelly as an arm sling, and as a film prop by actress Sharon Stone.
Eschewing mass-produced items, Hermès claims that just one person creates the majority of its products. In keeping with this emphasis, its packaging appears equally handmade.
Its classic rigid box is unmistakable, from the branded hue of orange and the well-known logo printed on the top of each box, to the high-quality paper and embroidered ribbons that match the product’s motifs. In fact, the unique packaging is so coveted that it is sold and traded on sites such as Etsy and eBay, where a set of three boxes sells for as much as $100.2
However, arguably the most recognizable of all luxury packaging is the Tiffany box. When Charles Lewis Tiffany opened Tiffany & Co. in Manhattan in 1837, he displayed impressive branding savvy by announcing that all Tiffany boxes must be the same shade of blue. “Tiffany Blue,” as the color is now called, is a custom trademarked Pantone color — PMS 1837 — for the year the jewelry shop opened.
Although most consumers would rather use a Tiffany rigid box as an elegant showpiece or practical container, the box is recyclable and more than 89 percent of the material used to produce the famous blue box comes from post-consumer, FSC-certified recycled sources.3
Of the prestige brands, Chanel is perhaps the most iconic. While world-famous for its little black dresses and tweed women’s suits, it is the timeless fragrance Chanel No. 5 that signifies the cachet of the brand.
At the end of the Victorian age of flowery packaging, fussy corsets and frilly dresses, Chanel’s clean branding stood out — and the outer packaging followed suit. Today, Chanel still uses the same black and white box design to house many of its products as it did when it was first introduced in 1921.
As an ideal vessel for merchandising luxury items, rigid boxes have secured their place in the upscale market. But since the elegant rigid box is also a sturdy container that protects breakable items, manufacturers of state-of-the-art technology have also recognized its benefits for packaging costly electronics.
Steve Jobs, the late co-founder, chairman and CEO of Apple, was fascinated by the unboxing process. When first introducing the iPhone in 2007, Jobs announced he held 200 patents on the phone’s design … and even one for the box! In fact, Apple packaging designers had holed up for months, opening hundreds of prototype boxes to determine how the user would encounter the iPhone for the first time at unboxing.
The result? A rectangular rigid box featuring a life-sized image of the product. The bottom portion of the box, which is fully nested in the top piece, contains a tall tray so that the iPhone is immediately visible upon opening. The only text on the top portion of the box is the name of the product, the version number and the glossy, metallic Apple logo.
Apple users consider themselves early adopters of technology, and the idea that the iPhone is a stylish status symbol and not just a phone is conveyed through the refined, sleek packaging. Through the carefully considered unboxing process, Apple enthusiasts are reminded of their inclusion in this sophisticated technical community.
Moreover, for technology trailblazers, a carton’s environmental impact is a crucial consideration, so the iPhone box’s 90 percent post-consumer recycled content paperboard fits the bill perfectly.
Even more exclusive, Google Glass (a wearable computer with an optical head-mounted display) is another state-of-the-art electronic item that imparts a sense of status to its user — especially since only 10,000 users have been deemed worthy of purchasing a developer pair (Users were selected after writing a 50-word blurb on Twitter or Google+ explaining why they’d make ideal “Google Glass Explorers.”).
The excitement surrounding the testing phase has extended to the packaging as well. To wit, a search for “Google Glass Unboxing” on YouTube yields more than one million results.
The Google Glass packaging is similar to the iPhone rigid box: tailored, sleek and with minimal lettering on the top surface. The word “Glass” is displayed on the top cover, on the short side is XE (Explorer Edition), and on the long side is a sticker featuring a QR code and product information.
On the sticker, Google proudly notes that its rigid box is made entirely of paper and encourages its users to recycle it. The sentence actually occupies more space on the package than any other information, which suggests that Google is aware of how concerned the tech-savvy demographic is about a package’s environmental footprint.
While pioneers in technical trends and developments recognize the need for a sophisticated presentation, consumers devoted to classic cultural movements such as liquor, film and music are also discriminating about the visual impact of a collectible … including its packaging.
When a brand releases a limited edition of a well-known product, an emphasis on elaborate and elegant packaging is a must. This is often seen in the liquor and entertainment retail categories.
For instance, Jack Daniel’s, one of the best-selling American whiskeys in the world, often releases special editions of its product in a unique, highly ornate rigid box, incorporating gift items such as highball glasses, flasks, keepsakes and other marketing collateral. These sets sell particularly well in the duty-free market, where a fancy package makes them ideal for prestigious gifts.
Rigid boxes can also impart the rarity of the item they contain — and be cherished as an integrated aspect of the product. A perfect example is the package design for the Transformers Limited Edition Collector’s Trilogy, which aptly reflects the high-tech, sci-fi aspect of the movie — and the innovative movement of the Transformers characters themselves.
Like an actual Transformers robot, the top portion of this trophy-style rigid box unfolds to reveal the movie discs and a vertically standing plaque signed by director Michael Bay. The base is composed of heavy chipboard wrapped in embossed metallic paper that mimics the look of industrial steel, and the top triangular portion is printed with the Transformers logo and characters from the films.
It is amazing what a rigid box is capable of containing. For instance, to commemorate its 50th anniversary, the Rolling Stones teamed up with Crystal Head vodka (a distillery founded by comedian Dan Aykroyd) to create a rigid box that celebrates both music and liquor. As a nod to the legendary Rolling Stones Sticky Fingers album cover, the exterior display case features a real zipper while the interior resembles a stage where a crystal skull-shaped bottle of vodka sits. Under the bottle is a drawer containing the double disc set of the Rolling Stones’ greatest hits from live performances.
Retailers looking to cultivate brand loyalty and foster a distinctive merchandising experience understand that a fantastic package is the first step in achieving lasting success. Likewise, consumers shopping for high-end jewelry, watches, perfumes, state-of-the-art gadgets and short-run editions expect these items to be contained in an elegant yet sustainable and sturdy container.
Rigid boxes continue to be the packaging of choice for many of these applications, thanks to their exacting craftsmanship, durability and versatility. And since they have successfully been used in this capacity for over 150 years, rigid boxes, with their ability to convey luxury, exclusivity and ecological viability, have incredible possibilities for the future of upscale product packaging as well.
1 BRANDPACKAGING May/June 2013, vol. 17, #04, p. 16
2 http://www.etsy.com/listing/154808102/lot-of-three-3-hermes-boxes-all- in?ref=sr_gallery_10&ga_search_query=hermes+box&ga_search_ type=all&ga_view_type=gallery