Wednesday, April 01, 2009

The New Tropicana Packaging Sucks

I am huge fan of product packaging and repackaging. I find it fascinating. Why does a company change it or even more importantly its logo? We live in a brand-centric culture. Everything we do is influenced by brands. Comparing price versus brand influences almost every buying decision we make. Head to the local supermarket, stand in the cereal aisle staring an array of colors littering the shelves that for the most part are exactly the same thing with different names attached. We evaluate if one is worth more, if one has more caché to us. We do it without even noticing it. Brand is the mixture of so many things but in my opinion is primarily based on perception & recognition.

Companies spend millions promoting and sometimes defending their brand. Peter Arnell is a marketing legend, a brand man. Recently, he won the huge account of Pepsi giving him free reign to everything in their stable on drinks. For those who don't know,
Pepsico doesn't just sell Pepsi. Their brand stable includes Cherry Pepsi, Diet Pepsi, Pepsi Max, Caffeine Free Pepsi and the variations of all of those concoctions as well as Mountain Dew & Sierra Mist and many more. Peter Arnell redesigned a large percentage of them with mixed results but none of the soft drink revamps offended or evoked much of a reaction from me (although I’m not much of a soda drinker.)

reading an article on Arnell in Newsweek with the unbelievably inventive title "Mad Man," it reminded me of the ire I felt when seeing his worst offense, the new Tropicana packaging.

It's bland, it doesn't make sense and to be honest, and it didn't need to be changed. Sometimes, that's the problem with change. Some logos can be adapted, removed, changed, or thrown on top of the trash heap littered with undesirable, outmoded, outdated and passé logos. But some are classics and fine just way they are.

Many customers complained that they couldn't even tell which carton was Tropicana because of the changed brand identity. It was kind of like trying to reinvent Tropicana by making it invisible and it hasn't worked. Tropicana will be removing this new packaging in the near future and reverting back to its old ways which I am very glad to hear.

They also updated SoBe Lifewater for the 10th time this year (maybe not the tenth but this Lifewater seems to change it's packaging every few weeks). I give them credit for persistence but it just looks worse and worse every time. On a personal note, I enjoy the Pomegranate Cherry Lifewater. (The Impulsive Buy has more on this.)

Lastly, they have also messed around with the Gatorade logo with this new G campaign. I just don't understand what the new design is supposed to do for these drinks. Some might say that they are trying to appear more hip to fight off the Vitamin Water competition. The new G packaging is more transparent but feels awkward. Their main reasoning seems to be the inventing of steps of assistance to one’s athletic performance. To sell you not just regular Gatorade, but some energy goo beforehand and specialized “recovery” drink afterwards. So does that make my plain old Gatorade just a middle man because I think it’s the star.

Preposterous and schiesty are two words this brings to mind. I love Gatorade but I drink it primarily during the spring and summer months (AKA softball season) so I haven't spent much time with the new bottle except for passing it by on my convenience store stops. I don’t need three steps from my liquid athletic performance enhancers so I’ll stick to the old faithful classic Lemon Lime Gatorade.

While it won't stop me from drinking it, it does make me think. Is Pepsi just wasting money on all this rebranding even if this guy is a guru? Does a change in perception equate to value in the long term or will a new guru redesign them yet again in a few months or a year? Is this the most prudent way for them to spend their money? What I think that the Tropicana fiasco proves is that sometimes people just want something they know and at the heart of the whole business is customers, not just new fresh additives or slogans. People have an affinity for Tropicana, the way it was, especially in this disconcerting economic period. They want to go into the supermarket and instantly recognize their Tropicana, a big juicy orange with a straw poked into it.

Related Links / Some Interesting Brand Blogs I found while writing this entry:

Mad Man: The Crazy Genius of Brand Guru Peter Arnell (Newsweek)
Brand New: Under Consideration Blog
The Pepsico Brand Portfolio Scrolling Thing
The Impulsive Buy

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