Feb 232009

Kudos to Tropicana for listening to its customers and reading my last blog entry on the subject “Branding Gone Wrong” :). The New York Times describes the debacle as Pepsico’s own version of New Coke. Ouch!

Tropicana will return to its original packaging in March after receiving tons of complaints and insults. While the article cites “hate” mail, email and phone calls, there’s no doubt the public’s voice spread far more quickly due to the social web, forcing Tropicana’s hand.

I admire the company’s admission that it made a mistake and its swift reaction. That said, I’m completely mystified how a company with some of the country’s foremost brand experts and an ad budget in the hundreds of millions of dollars can make such an egregious error in the first place….

Feb 032009


I understand the rationale behind Tropicana’s new brand image (the New York Times had a good summary article), and quite honestly the execution stinks. The premise, promoting quality and value, makes perfect sense. I learned quite some time ago that Tropicana is not from concentrate and decided I’m willing to pay a little more for a premium product.

In tight times, reinforcing quality and value is the way to go. And I don’t question that simplifying the packaging could reinforce this message…but the most important test on how well it resonates with customers is at the point of purchase, and there it fails miserably, at least in my neck of the woods.

Call it a non-statistically significant sample size and poke holes all you want in my simple market research study, but after 2 to 3 trips to the market, I’m reasonably convinced the drastic design change on the carton isn’t for the best. Here are some opinions and observations of shoppers I spoke to:

  • The glass of juice looks more yellow than orange, and the package is bland and lifeless. At least before, there was a fresh and juicy orange that made me want to drink a glass.
  • The cartons just blend in with the shelf, and I can’t even read what’s written. Don’t they know some of us older folks can’t see very well?
  • I can’t tell what’s straight OJ, what’s a mixture, what has pulp, and so forth. I’m assuming they spend a lot of money creating all of those varieties. Now, I could easily grab the wrong one.
  • The lettering is so faint and small that whatever new messages they’re trying to feed me aren’t getting through.
  • This feels like a discount brand, like the quality has gone down, which is the opposite of what I’d guess they’re trying to achieve.
  • I didn’t even notice the cap is shaped like an orange until you told me.

Let me simplify. I used to feel good about having Tropicana in my fridge – like yeah, I’ve got the good stuff. And now, quite honestly, it’s an eye sore.

Of course when you dominate the shelf space (40% market share) and your re-branding campaign is accompanied by a $35 million ad budget, I suppose you can easily reach the masses and spell out for them what’s otherwise far from obvious. Unfortunately, you can’t easily change what they will “naturally” feel when they look at the product in the fridge.