Monday, March 2, 2009

Putting the Squeeze On Tropicana

Last Monday, the NY Times reported that Tropicana was reversing its decision on new packaging for its orange juice, dumping the new design that, with its large glass of orange juice and large expanses of white space, looked like as contemporary as the 1970's. 
Redesigned packaging that was introduced in early January is being discontinued, executives plan to announce on Monday, and the previous version will be brought back in the next month.

Also returning will be the longtime Tropicana brand symbol, an orange from which a straw protrudes. The symbol, meant to evoke fresh taste, had been supplanted on the new packages by a glass of orange juice.

The about-face comes after consumers complained about the makeover in letters, e-mail messages and telephone calls and clamored for a return of the original look.
So what was behind the switch in the first place?  Later in the article,   explains:
“We underestimated the deep emotional bond” they had with the original packaging, he added. “Those consumers are very important to us, so we responded.”

Among those who underestimated that bond was Mr. Campbell himself. In an interview last month to discuss the new packaging, he said, “The straw and orange have been there for a long time, but people have not necessarily had a huge connection to them.”

Reminded of that on Friday, Mr. Campbell said: “What we didn’t get was the passion this very loyal small group of consumers have. That wasn’t something that came out in the research.”
A very curious mea culpa, given the efforts that Tropicana took over the years to cement that mnemonic device in consumers' minds, from still images like this:


To filmed footage, like this:



(Here's that last image again, if you missed it:)


For this discussion, let's not question the wisdom of changing your longtime packaging so radically that you've made it harder for shoppers to quickly identify you among other orange juices in a crowded refrigerated case.  

Let's just consider that, in pursuit of "freshening" their packaging, Tropicana tossed out the one element that they truly "owned," an iconic image so simple, so memorable, and so elegantly expressive of their brand promise, on what appears to the whim of their ad agency.  Other OJ makers would kill for a iconic image like this, and Tropicana was worried that consumers felt no bond with the orange-and-straw?  

Did they ever consider that an emotional connection wasn't as important as its more "rational" connotation to buyers?  Or even more to the point:  What did they really think the new packaging offered that would compensate for the loss of the previous recognizability and communication?

How do you enhance your brand equity by dumping it?

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