Just when Arnell must have been breathing a sigh of relief that the Pepsi noise was subsiding, thanks to The New York Times, the Tropicana package story erupted into the public eye. Consumers’ voices are heard once again, and even more important, their opinions are acted upon. I’m not the first nor the last to have an opinion here, but I must weigh in.
This is a very different situation from the Pepsi logo and pack. In Tropicana’s case, there was a major screw-up in two critical areas:
They messed with the brand flag I know enough about package design to know that it’s a real art. Most CPG marketers I have worked with have a near religious fervor when it comes to their “brand flag” (a brand flag is often more than a logo; it can include imagery or a particular color palette for example). A package is a limited and complex piece of real estate, and it must signal many things within the blink of an eye. When a package redesign is called for, there better be a very good reason to mess with the brand flag. For Tropicana, the flag was obviously the orange and the straw.
Why did they do it? Was the marketing team bored with the orange and the straw? Did the agency enthrall them with another pompous and absurd rationale for wholesale change? Were they terrified of losing market share to the store brands? (And if so, why did they pick such a generic, undifferentiated look?)
They threw out the information design Any product that comes in different formulations must establish an information hierarchy (not just words, but design elements, too) to differentiate one from another. It used to be relatively easy to grab your preferred pulp level, calcium injection or whatever based on context. Tropicana, like most other packaged goods, used a color strategy:
By throwing out both the brand flag AND the information hierarchy, Tropicana really left the consumer lost in the juice aisle.
Why is this different from Pepsi? Arnell messed with the information hierarchy on Pepsi for sure, with the overly cutesy variety of smiles. What saved it, I think was that there was enough that was recognizable about the brand flag to provide consumers with enough Pepsi cues. And it doesn’t hurt that the outer packaging for Pepsi cans by the case is still the old package design, even though the cans inside have the new look.
At the end of the day, I have a hard time believing that the voices of “a fraction of a percent of the people who buy the product” is really enough to make senior management decide to throw out the packaging. My bet is that it is the quality of the complaints, not the quantity. didn’t work. Tropicana made the right decision in the end, but at what cost?