Perfume packaging is an inspired beauty

Could there a contemporary superstar with more glamour or charisma than Beyoncé Knowles? That’s for pop fandom to debate. What’s clear is that the singer’s sheer star power has been successfully translated into a high-end packaging concept for Beyoncé Pulse.

The perfume was created for the Beyoncé brand by Coty (New York). Philip Tarrant, senior engineer for packaging development at Coty, describes the main design elements as modeling Beyoncé’s stage accoutrements. Thus the package is more than just a delivery system for a fragrance—it also serves as an icon of its namesake at her most radiant moments in performance.

A striking silver overcap (or “shroud”) encloses the bottle to mimic the way the star’s shimmery ball gowns envelop her figure. The dazzling holographic effects on the carton reproduce, in miniature, the movement and energy of the laser light shows that often signal her entrance.

The package design aims to be different from every other perfume container on the market—an objective achieved by surrounding an extraordinary bottle with an equally distinctive carton that dramatically pushes the technique of printable holography to a new level of visual flair.

Like her, a showpiece

The result, says Tarrant, is exactly what Beyoncé wanted as a vehicle for the latest addition to her branded line of fragrances: a package that her female fans can display with pride on their vanities and dressing tables.

Beyoncé Pulse joined the line, which also includes the perfumes Beyoncé Heat and Beyoncé Heat Rush, in August. The launch, preceded by about 12 months of development, was a collaborative effort that combined the talents of Coty’s internal packaging group; the outside expertise of Lance McGregor, a Brooklyn, N.Y.-based product designer and “visual futurist”; and guidance from the celebrity herself.

“Beyoncé was pivotal in supplying the inspirational references for the bottle design direction,” McGregor says. “She also played a major role in editing my designs and offering her own aesthetic opinion. I wanted to reflect this in the design, so I took a nontraditional approach.”

With its cut-crystal appearance and silvery shroud, the elegant bottle literally turns the usual concept of perfume container design on its head. The bottle is inverted within the shroud, which serves as an overcap that conceals the pump from view. In this way, says McGregor, “I focused on it being dramatic, unexpected, and avant garde, with a more sculptural, artistic expression.”

To use, the purchaser holds the shroud’s base to remove the bottle, applies the fragrance, and then reinserts the bottle into the cap. Except for the pump, all components of the primary package are custom-produced for Coty. Saint-Gobain Containers supplies the bottles in 100-, 50-, 30-, and 15-ml sizes. The shroud is made by Maticplast, an Italian company that embraced an assignment that other plastics manufacturers contacted by Coty declined. “A lot of people we showed it to didn’t think it could be done,” Tarrant says.

The shroud is manufactured in two sizes, one for the two smaller bottles and another for the 50- and 100-ml containers. Its silver color is a counterpoint to the gold-accented packaging of Beyoncé Heat and Beyoncé Heat Rush. Caps are applied to filled bottles on a hand-assembly line at Coty’s plant in Sanford, NC, where the bottles are inserted with liners into the cartons.

“Explosive and dramatic”

Because the cartons are expected to convey the Beyoncé mystique as arrestingly as the bottles do, says Tarrant, Coty couldn’t be content with “just printing on a box” for the part of packaging that shoppers see first. “We wanted the carton to be explosive and dramatic,” says McGregor, adding that his collaborator, graphic designer Mariko Iizuka, “nailed it” with her vision of a radiant starburst as the exterior motif for Beyoncé Pulse.
Creative realization also came from Curtis Packaging Corp., the producer of the carton, and Hazen Paper Co., which supplied the holographic substrate. They went far beyond the fundamentals of carton production by turning the graphically complex design into a printable “dedicated hologram.”

In this type of hologram, the holographic pattern serves as a template for the rest of the artwork to overprint. “By using the hologram as the graphic foundation, the designer can create a true three-dimensional image where the hologram appears to move behind the print graphic,” says John Hazen, president of Hazen Paper. “The facets of the holographic design appear to move and flash from behind and within the graphic design.”
This visual dynamism gives the package “the power to imply an inner quality coming from within the box,” Hazen says. A dedicated hologram also provides brand protection and deters counterfeiting, he adds.

But it isn’t an easy technique to get right. When a job with a dedicated hologram runs on press, the inks must overprint the holographic elements in flawless register. The holographic starburst on the Beyoncé Pulse carton multiplies the difficulty by being integral and continuous from panel to panel, pushing the need for accuracy in ink laydown to the limit.

Meeting a specification of this kind was a first for Curtis Packaging, says John Giusto, chief operating officer. To make it work, Hazen Paper furnishes Curtis Packaging with holographically enhanced SBS paperboard in three different weights according to carton size. Despite its intensely reflective appearance, the surface of the hologram supports just a tiny quantity of metal: a layer of aluminum about 300 angstrom units thick. (One angstrom unit equals one ten-billionth of a meter.) Hazen says that if an empty 12-oz. aluminum can were compressed to the thickness of the metallic layer on the Beyoncé Pulse cartoning, it would cover nearly 1.9 million square feet.

Hazen Paper treats the mirror-smooth surface of the hologram with a primer coat that makes it receptive to ink. In Sandy Hook, CT, Curtis Packaging prints the stock in eight colors on a KBA Rapida 130 sheetfed press with interdeck UV curing. The ink set includes fluorescent spot colors and an extra hit of black to heighten the design’s dark-bright contrasts and intensify its light-catching glow. Curtis Packaging also provides the diecutting, stamping, and embossing.

The carton substrate, Hazen says, is recyclable “where facilities exist.” He explains that the Beyoncé Pulse carton is a film laminate because it has a 48-gauge polyester layer for durability. Film laminates, he concedes, are not as universally recyclable as transfer metalized paper, such as the substrate used for this month’s cover. Still, he says, film laminate is recyclable. Remarking on the trim and scrap repulped at his Holyoke, MA, plant, Hazen says: “We recycle more than 250 tons per year of film-laminated paperboard.”

The carton garnered significant professional recognition when it was named the winner in the “Best Applied Decorative Hologram” category at the International Hologram Manufacturers Association (IHMA) Holo-pack•Holo-print conference in November. “This award generally goes to anti-counterfeiting applications such as bank-notes and passports,” says Hazen. “I think the fact that this 2011 IHMA award was given to a cosmetic package could be a watershed moment.”

A creative arms race

Tarrant notes that the earlier success of Beyoncé Heat and Beyoncé Heat Rush upped the creative ante for the introduction of Beyoncé Pulse, a costly package to develop and produce. But he says that the goal of trumping the previous designs with an even more striking concept “justifies the expense to do something really unique and special.”

Giusto agrees that for package creators in hotly contested markets such as the ones served by Coty, “the bar just keeps getting raised more and more” with each new advance in package design. And while the packaging for Beyoncé Pulse is impressive in its innovative fusion of graphics and materials, he says, Curtis Packaging’s next assignment of this kind will have to be even more so.

That’s just the nature of the ultra-competitive “arms race” among package producers today, Giusto observes.