In 2009, Tropicana, a Pepsico-owned juice brand, decided to undergo a packaging refresh. However, less than two months in, Tropicana pulled the plug and reverted to its original design. Apparently, Tropicana had suffered a 20% drop in sales and its market share was eroding quickly. This was cause for concern because the entire refrigerated orange juice category posted flat sales during the same period.
Could packaging have caused such a decline with no change to the contents?
Why The U-turn?
Customers immediately expressed their dissatisfaction for the new design via letters, e-mails, social media and telephone calls. Some considered the new look to be ‘ugly’, ‘stupid’ and ‘generic’, while some thought the redesign made it more difficult to distinguish among the varieties of Tropicana including the competition.
Tropicana sought to create excitement around the Pure Premium juice with an all new look and an integrated marketing campaign to boot. Their intention was to communicate the Tropicana’s product attributes and health benefits. Unfortunately, it didn’t work out as planned.
To offer more context let’s evaluate the packaging change.
Original Vs Redesign
The traditional orange with a straw illustration was replaced by an inviting full glass of orange juice. The lid received an upgrade. It sported a new squeeze-type ergonomic design that resembled a half orange. The lid’s creative touch blended well with the overall advertising campaign, “Squeeze, it’s a natural”.
In addition, the logo changed from a horizontal display to a vertical placement. Even the font was given a less dramatic modern feel. The capitalization, “PURE PREMIUM”, was downplayed to lower case characters.
The logo size was reduced as a result of the new orientation and space constraints. It was also perhaps because Tropicana wished to draw more attention to the “100% Orange Pure & Natural” claim.
Suffice to say, Tropicana wasn’t in favor of subtlety when it came to brandishing its new concept.
The People Have Spoken
While everyone is entitled to an opinion, Tropicana had little choice but to pay heed to what their customers were saying. After all, there was hardly any other evidence to support the sales decline.
Neil Campbell, president of Tropicana North America, said, ” It was not the volume of outcries that led to the corporate change of heart because it was a fraction of a percent of the people who buy the product. Rather, the criticism is being heeded because it came from some of our most loyal consumers. We underestimated the deep emotional bond they had with the original packaging”.
“What we didn’t get was the passion that this very loyal small group of consumers have. That wasn’t something that came out in the research”, Mr. Campbell added.
- Consumers can develop strong attachments to the appearance of a brand as much as the functional/emotional benefits it provides.
- Complete brand identity overhauls are not simple. They warrant deep research and strategic thought. A complete redesign is like asking someone to accept change overnight. Perhaps, gradually ushering customers to a new look is more advisable at times.
- Packaging is not just a means of wrapping up your product for sale. They are visual identifiers and the last communication device a product has at the point of purchase. If your customers can’t tell you apart, they’ll probably try your competitor.
Tropicana’s redesign struggle illustrates the importance of packaging in the overall branding ecosystem. Whether Tropicana conducted research or chose to ignore findings before commercializing the new packaging remains unknown.
In my opinion, the orange with a straw was a clear indication of what consumers could expect. It lent a natural association to ‘pure’ and ‘freshness’. Replacing this imagery with a glass of orange juice, led consumers to question if the formula had indeed changed.
It must also be said that this could have also swung in the other direction. Consumers could have loved the new design just as much as they did the advertising campaign that ran in parallel.
What we have learned however, is that we need to talk to our most loyal customers before significant alterations are made. This would not only help assess viability, but, also eliminate dissatisfaction, confusion and wastage of resources.
Peter Arnell, CEO of the creative agency behind the redesign, in a speech explaining the company’s intention:
Image Credits – nytimes.com