Posts Tagged 'Tropicana redesign'

The GAP Analysis

What a week for the Gap branding!

The summary: A new logo was introduced on the Gap website on 10/6.  A firestorm swept through the design community blogs like Brand New and spread into the general media.  By Monday evening, 10/11, the new logo had been withdrawn and Gap executives were acknowledging their mis-reading of customer sentiment.

This being several days later, it is time for a sober assessment of the situation, what went wrong and what went right.

First, kudos to the executives at Gap for having an early warning system with a very sensitive radar.  They caught wind of the online comments within hours.

Second, senior Gap executives responded in the appropriate forums and quickly and in the name of senior executives. Marka Hansen was front and center with her response on the Huffington Post.  She also responded quickly to journalists blogging online about the situation.

Third, Gap did not jump out with a legalistic defense.  It was not a series of dense corporate-speak memo.  They stayed in the voice of the brand, not in the voice of an attorney.  They did not lash out at the critics.

Fourth, Gap was willing to take actions in the face of the outcry.  We can debate if it was the right action but they did respond and take concrete steps to address the situation in near record time.

Not to say that Gap’s handling of the situation was flawless.  The initial Facebook response fanned the flames among the design community.  By calling for everyone to submit their own ideas for the Gap logo – aka crowd sourcing – it hit an exposed nerve in the design world.  Crowd sourcing has been blamed for many of the troubles in the design industry.

Could better or different market research have prevented this problem?  I believe so.  Tropicana’s brand misfire showed us the flaws in typical focus groups and market research.  The Tropicana uproar came from the real world, from consumers who couldn’t find their beloved product anymore.  In my house the first reaction to the new packaging was, “why don’t we get Tropicana anymore?”

It would mean a whole new approach to market research to anticipate the Gap uproar — because the Gap uproar happened among a community that is not representative of core Gap consumers.  After all, who would expect Gap to test their logo among the design community?   And the design community is notorious for having strong opinions that don’t really influence anyone. Blogs have amplified the opinions of designers but haven’t really made them any more influential in almost all situations — except for this.

So, does this now mean open season on all new rebranding programs?  Or was it an outlier, a black swan?

I believe this is part of the new normal.  Every CMO from this point forward will be thinking of Gap and Tropicana as they consider their rebranding plans.

The risks of rebranding have just gotten higher.  The old way of marketing is leading to new troubles.

Branding needs to more flexible than ever before.

I believe that the Gap situation is one more reason why marketing needs to be reinvented for the reality of today’s digital world.  The traditional methods of branding, the traditional tools of market research — they have lost their effectiveness and need to be replaced.

Ignoring the G-P Rebranding Story

I was going to just ignore this whole G-P rebranding fiasco and leave it to Brand New and others like the Huffington Post.

In fact, I’m not going to mention it at all.

Nope.  Not a word.  Not from me.  I’m not hopping on that bandwagon.  I’m just minding my own business.

But, wow, what a firestorm!  Instantly people compared it to the Tropicana misfire with headlines like “New G-P Logo: Next Tropicana-Style Redesign Flop?”  This is the nightmare of every CEO and CMO who has ever gone through a major rebranding program.   It will probably stop dozens of branding projects as executives get cold feet or want to double the amount of market research before making a go/no-go decision.

Parodies of Ga…uh…that thing we aren’t talking about have popped up everywhere.  Too many designers with too much time on their hands…

Which brings me to the real and important issue of today.  Too many people with too much time on their hands because they don’t have enough work.  Not just designers, writers and marketing executives.

So it is worth stopping for a moment and consider the new Nobel prize winners in Economics.  They have been recognized for their work in labor markets and unemployment.  Certainly a hot topic at the moment. One of the three, Peter Diamond, was nominated to the Federal Reserve Board in April.  A nomination that has been blocked by Republican Senators.  At a time when our country truly needs strong leadership at the Fed, we have a Nobel Prize winning economist blocked from a filling one of the many vacancies. [Irony abounds:  Senator Shelby is blocking Diamond for lack of experience and expertise.]

And here, here is where marketing comes into the picture.  It is the role of marketing to create demand.  Look at the brilliance of Hyundai’s marketing in 2009 with the Buyer’s Assurance Plan that spoke directly to people with unvarnished truth.  Demand for Hyundai has been rising, sales have been rising, market share has been rising.

Marketing is one of the drivers of demand.  Without enough demand, the economy cannot grow.

And if our economy stagnates, we’ll have too many designers with too much time on their hands creating too many parodies of the new logo by the Gaaaa….nah, couldn’t even write it out.  You’ll just have to look elsewhere…perhaps to Twitter Whoever is doing those posts is obviously over-educated and under-employed.  Here are a few examples:

Thought we had questionable labor practices before? Now we’re going to exploit designers! Upton Sinclair would be proud.

This thing blew up faster than Kirstie Alley locked in a room full of oreos.

Peter Arnell just called. He didn’t say anything – all we heard was laughing on the other end of the line. What a dick.

Metaphors mean business – or – If “G” is for Gatorade, then is “F” for financials?


The rebrand of Gatorade was launched at the beginning of this year and now the results are in.  Verdict?  Not good.  In Thursday’s WSJ it was reported that a large drop in sales of Gatorade is behind Pepsico’s 6% drop in volume during the second quarter.  

This is the 3rd time that an Arnell Group’s redesign has proven very costly to Pepsico.  It’s a classic case of branding getting in the way of business.  In fairness the first case, the redesign of the Pepsi logo, it was more of a public relations issue than a design question.  People said that it was too similar to the Obama campaign logo and the justifications provided by Arnell did not successfully address the underlying issue.  The cost was to the brand’s reputation. Over time the Obama similarity questions will fade away (at least outside of the branding community) and I believe that the Pepsi Smile will ultimately become a successful identity.  That is because a strong new metaphor — the smile — has been woven into the Pepsi narrative.  Drink a Pepsi and smile!

The second was the redesign of the Tropicana brand.  In that case a strong metaphor, the straw in the orange, was replaced by a beautifully shot glass of orange juice.  It was beautiful and well executed but lacking in meaning.  It was an error that should have been picked up in well-designed market research that probes into metaphors.  A typical focus group could easily miss the deeper issue.  In this case the cost was both to the brand’s reputation and an actual monetary loss for returning to the old, stronger, metaphors on packaging.  All of the new work was a needless expense.

What is interesting about the third case?  It is the one most clearly identified as a substantial financial cost to the brand and company.  That was the underlying story in the recent earnings report. 

So what went wrong?

The answer is simple.  The redesign of Gatorade replaced a strong metaphor for a weak metaphor.  

Here is the previous Gatorade design.  The central metaphor is the lightening bolt.  Heavy handed?  Yes but you cannot miss it.   It is Zeus’s lightening bolt, the symbol of the powerful gods. Rich stuff for co-creating meaning.  The old campaigns showed the old metaphors clearly — the victorious warriors, the gods of sport, celebrating with Gatorate.  

If you believe that ancient mythology is long forgotten and therefore that bolt is unknown, consider that Disney’s movie Hercules was released in 1997 and retold that story again for a new generation.  And the popular Percy Jackson series started with The Lightening Thief — which is about to be released as a major motion picture.


And here is the redesign.  The dominant metaphor here is “G”.  The name has been de-emphasize to the point of being nearly invisible.  And the lightening bolt has been demoted to a secondary graphic element.  

Gatorade redesign on packaging

What does “G” mean?  That was the question raised by the new advertising.  Gifted, glorious, golden and the emblem of a warrior are some of the answers provided in the advertising campaign.  Here’s John Swansburg’s take on the campaign in Slate.    In sum, the metaphor of quenching the thirst of warriors has been replaced by people in street clothes talking about “G” as the symbol of the warrior and not the lightening bolt.  

For the average person “G” has little meaning.  What do you co-create with G? Certainly it is not associated with winning teams and sweating athletes.  What might seem a subtle shift in emphasis to update the brand was really a major shift in the metaphor.  And that has proven costly.

In sum, the redesign of Pepsi, adding the smile metaphor, will probably be successful over time.  It was a pr fumble, nothing more.  The redesign of Tropicana and Gatorade show what happens with the opposite situation, the replacement of a strong metaphor with a much weaker one.  The cost has been real, not just in image.  Every business person and every creative person should memorize this line from the poet Robert Frost

Unless you are educated in metaphor, you are not safe to be let loose in the world.

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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