Thursday, February 26, 2009

Orange Equity

As “The Essential Orange”, I watched the groundswell around the Tropicana packaging controversy with great interest. There are over 5000 blog entries, not to mention hundreds of tweets and a Facebook group all whinging about the package change. My conclusion – I wouldn’t want to be the Tropicana brand manager right now. Run!!! Change your profile on Linkedin!!

Kidding aside, here are my thoughts:

  • Don’t be arrogant - – when you have an iconic brand, your customers’ “own” it. You have to involve them in a more meaningful way. You ignore them at your own peril.
  • Baby boomers wear glasses – you have to help them find you on the shelf. Don’t confuse and frustrate them. The big orange on the old packaging stood out and the caps helped you differentiate between varieties quickly and easily
  • Baby boomers have discovered blogging – be creative in getting consumer insights. Look at what Eight O’Clock Coffee and Nestle are doing to involve their customers.
  • Be relevant – the package design project probably started over 18 months ago. Consumer sentiment has changed. The consumer in 2009 is …. “seeking comfort and security rather than status. Brands that hearken back to simpler, better times will do well. Nostalgic branding that speaks to old-world sensibilities will encourage consumers to do more with less”. Richard Brandt, Executive Creative Director, Landor New York.
  • Don’t mess with the orange – they did well here. The product and the carton sizing remain the same.

Curiously, no one gave Tropicana any credit for supporting "Save the Rainforest" or their efforts on reducing their environmental footprint, both of which are featured on their website with the new packaging.

Here’s an idea they could have pursued to involve loyal fans and receive recognition for doing good - let folks comment/vote on the new/old packaging and for their involvement, reward them by buying a piece of the rainforest in their name.

Sales Sour - update on impact of packaging change - update 4/3/09

After its package redesign, sales of the Tropicana Pure Premium line plummeted 20% between Jan. 1 and Feb. 22, costing the brand tens of millions of dollars. Now that the numbers are out, it's clear why PepsiCo's Tropicana moved as fast as it did. According to Information Resources Inc., unit sales dropped 20%, while dollar sales decreased 19%, or roughly $33 million, to $137 million between Jan. 1 and Feb. 22.

Several of Tropicana's competitors appear to have benefited from the misstep, notably Minute Maid, Florida's Natural and Tree Ripe. Varieties within each of those brands posted double-digit unit sales increases during the period. Private-label products also saw an increase during the period, in keeping with broader trends in the food and beverage space.

For posterity, I'm including a link to the interview with Peter Arnell, the head of the design firm that came up with the new look, with their rationale.



  1. While I generally love most things modern and minimalist, I think the new Tropicana packaging moved beyond that to the boring. The look undercut the brand's premium positioning. It looked like private label stuff that just blended into the shelf.

    While marketing is all about meeting consumer expectations, no doubt it is extremely difficult to run a brand via popular fiat. That said, I'm glad that the folks at Trop listened to their consumers and brought the traditional look back. Who knows - there may be a bit of a consumer bounce reminiscent of New Coke/Coca-Cola classic episode of the 80's as a result!

  2. Hi Michael - nice to hear from you. Great comments. I wonder if this case makes the marketing annals as the first package to be brought back by popular fiat....?

    Found another great entry on the subject from Laura Ries that you may want to check out.

  3. I read about Topicana's packaging undoing last week and it's come up a few times in meetings with different folks. I'm a regular Tropicana buyer and had almost overlooked the new containers a few times in my regular grocery store. So I certainly understood what many of the complaints were about.

    But then last week I happened to be in a Whole Foods where they seem to pay religious attention to stocking and arranging the shelves and came across a virtual wall of Tropicana. I have to say all together like that, the new packaging was quite attention grabbing and had this cool billboard effect.

    I started to wonder if maybe this was yet another one of those situations where marketers didn't spend enough time thinking about implementation. Sure, in a conference room, the design--especially if it was presented with all the containers neatly lined up like what I saw in Whole Foods--looked great. But line the new boxes up next to other brands and put them on non-contiguous shelves--in other words how it's more apt to look in a garden variety grocery store--and Tropicana's manager would have had a much more realistic sense of how attention grabbing (or in this case, problematic)the design was.

    Either way, I think you're right, the brand manager might want to lay low.

  4. Hi Marketing Frayers,

    Thanks for the visit. I saw another interesting packaging decision that's covered in Jay Heyman's blog

    Check out the March 6 post.