Thursday, February 26

Rebranding Blunder: Tropicana Orange Juice

Watching Peter Arnell, founder and chief creative officer of Arnell Group, explain the rationale behind the branding change of Pepscio's Tropicana package redesign is almost painful to watch. The clip from a press conference held five weeks ago is now archived at AdvertisingAge.

"Emotionally, it was very, very difficult, and it still remains difficult, for everyone to grasp the importance of that change because it so dramatic," said Arnell. "Of course, historically, we always showed the outside of the orange. Um, what was fascinating was that we had never shown the product called the juice."

Does he mean like EVERYBODY else?

Arnell, who suffers his own brand paradox, seems to have made a fatal mistake. Perhaps swept up by the bizarre sea of change occurring at PepsiCo, the redesign scheme for Tropicana Orange Juice was doomed from the start. Why? Because the concept was driven by an introspective redesign.

As consumers pointed out to The New York Times, the new packaging was “ugly” or “stupid,” resembling “a generic bargain brand” or a “store brand.” In fact, even after hearing Arnell's explanation, it's difficult to understand the logic behind a redesign that makes the product look like everybody else because the company had never tried that before.

Change For The Sake Of Change Is Naughty.

This isn't the first time marketers and consumers have questioned agency recommendations to embrace identity redesigns that don't hinge on the five best reasons to consider change. It won't be the last either. You see, the reality is that rebranding, especially when it's built on some guy's imagination without significant consideration of the external market, is an easy way to own an organization while the rebranding occurs and squeeze out some extra billing too.

During those relatively rare occurrences when rebranding makes sense, it's important to factor in what changes have occurred in the marketplace over what the company has done before. In other words, redesigning away from existing identity doesn't make any sense whatsoever if the creative only delivers a contrast to past creative instead of a contrast to competing products.

In the case of Tropicana, PepsiCo is now bowing to public demand and scrapping the changes and sticking the straw back in the orange, an image that was smart because it stuck with the consumer. While some might argue that the publicity might pad the price tag of the redesign, I disagree. The last impression you want attached to your brand is "stupid." Ironically, Tropicana orange juice will retain the "squeeze cap" concept, which makes you work a little bit harder to enjoy the product and makes me happy that my daughter prefers apple juice.

The bottom line: when agencies "sell" rebranding concepts, make sure the rebranding is market driven and not agency "sales" driven. Otherwise, the only thing your company will be stuck with is the bill.


Kim on 2/26/09, 11:38 AM said...

Wow, that packaging really is awful. It reminds me of the semi-generic store brand labels on products sold at Fresh and Easy (nothing against Fresh and Easy).

It doesn't make me want to buy Tropicana OJ, though.

Rich on 2/26/09, 5:03 PM said...

Off blog comment of the day:

"Introspective redesigning much kinder term than mine: Ignorant greed." — via SpinThicket

Rich on 2/26/09, 5:06 PM said...


One would think packaging from a powerful brand would entice you to buy it, but audience suitability is a lot to ask from some agencies these days.


Anonymous said...

I have trouble anytime I shop for Tropicana. I agree about the previous packaging - certainly did look like generic. But no matter what packaging Tropicana has been in I always have problems. All I want is OJ. Preferably without pulp. There are so many variations of Trop on the shelf that I have to closely read the labels to find the one I want - without pulp. And then I have to be even more careful because it might be OJ with Tangerines.

All the packages look alike, and there are too many variations. It can take 5 minutes of looking at the boxes to find plain OJ without pulp. on 7/7/09, 7:12 AM said...

I thought I was the only lost in the OJ section!

Rich on 7/7/09, 10:42 AM said...

Anon and Kathlene,

I think you both nailed it. Why aren't advertisers listening to consumers instead of being hip and cool?

And by listening, I don't mean asking hundreds of questions. Consumers tend to ask better questions too, imo.


Anonymous said...

This blunder cost PepsiCo lots of money. I do not have the exact numbers at my fingertips, but they lost something like 35% of their orange juice market share in 2 months - and most of that went to Coke's Minute Maid orange juice. That is why they admitted a bad move and tried to stop the bleeding as fast as possible and went back to the old design. Unlike Coke and their great "New Coke" idea of years ago - it took them a long time to admit they messed up and Pepsi picked up lots of market share. So at least someone at PepsiCo had the guts to stand up and say they screwed up and lets do the right thing for the company.


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