Monday, April 20, 2009

Being squeezed

When a member of the Lovemarks community describes his Lovemark as "an everyday, close to religious, choice for me", you have to sit up and take notice. This is how ‘Jeffrey’ described Tropicana orange juice. If you follow the ups and downs of brands, you will have heard a lot about Tropicana in the media over the last few months. None of it good. PepsiCo – who are responsible for Tropicana – redesigned the packaging of this iconic product, put it on the shelves, and stood by in shock as all hell let loose. According to Information Resources Inc., unit sales dropped 20%! (AdAge).

Why did PepsiCo change the packaging without so much as a word to the people who buy it? Because they were convinced they owned the brand and that some discussion over mood boards with a focus groups or two would capture the contribution of consumers. Not so. As PepsiCo learned and as the world now knows, Tropicana consumers were furious when the iconic orange with its protruding straw was removed. Designers and brand managers might see it as out-of-date and generic, but shoppers refused to see past it. The result was a barrage of emails, phone calls, and letters to PepsiCo demanding the old packaging back in no uncertain terms. Thanks to online media, this wave of response was very fast and easy for consumers to deliver. The old days of sitting down, penning a letter of complaint, getting an envelope, and going to the post office are long gone.

PepsiCo are a smart company. They reacted fast and returned to the familiar packaging that people turned out to be so committed to. Does this mean there should never be change? Of course not. The new PepsiCo campaign is a joy in itself – XOXO. What it does show is that the consumer is boss.

I have no doubt that Tropicana could change their packaging to the delight of their customers. Great design coupled with a deep understanding of taste and need would do it. If they do decide to venture out again after this most recent experience, they could check out Naoto Fukasawa. He has done the most incredible designs for fruit juice containers with the look and feel of the fruit they contain. Clear, pure, and very, very tasty.