Where did Tropicana go wrong?

Tropicana has done an about face on their new packaging.  Just a month ago Tropicana introduced new packaging that removes their orange with a straw and replaces it with a glass of orange juice.  Now they are bringing back the orange and straw.

Is the glass half empty or half fully?

Is the glass half empty or half full?

Back to the Future?

Back to the Future?











Where did Tropicana go wrong?

According to Stuart Elliott in the Times

In an interview last month to discuss the new packaging, he [Mr. Campbell, president of Tropicana] said, “The straw and orange have been there for a long time, but people have not necessarily had a huge connection to them.”

Now it seems that people do have a huge connection to them.  As the president said, “That wasn’t something that came out in the research.”

So the glass is out and the orange and straw are back.  And the question comes up, what went wrong with the research?  Also, where did Peter Arnell, the designer, go wrong?

Many people have noted that the new packaging is “generic”.  But that doesn’t go to the heart of the problem.  It is an observation not an insight.  The problem goes much deeper.

First, the research.  I don’t know what research method that Tropicana (part of PepsiCo) used, so I will not speculate on that.  If they had used a method such as ZMET they would have learned about the power of their existing metaphor of the orange and straw.  In this case, I would have suggested a series of one-on-one interviews to uncover the metaphors, stories and associations people have with orange juice in general and Tropicana in particular.  Through constructions — using images, textures, materials — it would have been possible to see the depth and richness of the current metaphor.  It is this depth and robustness of response that is more important than someone saying, “Oh, I like the look of this one better than that one.”  

What kind of meaning would you co-create with a glass of orange juice?  How does that differ in quality from the meaning you co-create with a straw sticking out of an orange?

Second, the design.  Peter Arnell is a brilliant designer.  In this situation he did not recognize that he was substituting an inferior metaphor for a very rich and compelling one.  He said, “I’m incredibly surprised by the reaction.”  He should not have been surprised at all.  He should have recognized the possibility of this happening.  He should have replaced the orange and straw with a visual metaphor that was stronger, not weaker.

In essence he was solving a problem that did not exist.  There are endless ways to update the orange and straw.  Removing it removes almost everything from the visual side of Tropicana’s narrative.  Now the only visual element carrying the narrative is a small leaf on the “i” in the name.

Arnell has recently lost a lot of face.  The new Pepsi logo has come in for a lot of criticism for being a rip-off of Obama’s campaign logo.  I personally don’t think that was intended but the advertising and the PR surrounding the new Pepsi logo were not effective at addressing that question.  

Now comes the Tropicana debacle.  And this is truly a mistake by Peter Arnell. 

So where did Tropicana really go wrong?  I would say by not having the right research in place.  And by allowing the brand guru Peter Arnell to remove their strong metaphor.

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