Tropicana rebrand squeezes sales to a pulp

Tropicana is one of the world’s strongest brands in the drinks sector, with a heritage dating back to 1947. It is such a strong brand that PepsiCo paid $3.3bn for the business in 1998. It has a distinctive – almost iconic – logo of a straw piercing an orange, suggesting the very freshest of juice straight from the fruit, with no added ingredients.

In the competitive food and drink sector, packaging plays an incredibly important part in the purchasing decision of consumers. In an effort to remain relevant to its customers, it embarked on a rebrand of its packaging and supported it with a $35m integrated marketing campaign.

Out went the orange and straw, and in came a glass of the juice.

The familiar orange wasn’t lost entirely – they created a ‘squeeze cap’ for the bottle in the shape of the fruit.

Additionally, the logo’s traditional font was updated to a more contemporary style and rotated from a horizontal to vertical position.

Taken on their own, they’re not terrible ideas. They might even be logical. The carton now shows the actual product that’s inside the bottle. The squeeze cap is a nod to the idea of squeezing the fruit to get to the juice, and the modern look and feel keeps the brand fresh.

But… The bottles were unrecognisable and the product stood camouflaged amongst the generic brands. Unable to easily identify their juice of choice, shoppers picked up the competitors’ products instead. In the two months after launch, unit sales dropped 20% in North America, reported to be $33m in lost revenue.

On 23rd February – just a couple of months after launch – Tropicana announced it would return to its original packaging design.

For a more detailed analysis the branding journal has covered this story brilliantly, and I highly recommend their article.

What does good look like?

On reflection we can see that the visual brand had a complete overhaul, when a facelift was probably all that was needed. Consider how much of a revamp you need before undertaking a rebrand. With a product – particularly in FMCG – the packaging has visual cues that draw the customer to pick it up almost on autopilot. If you remove them, you can remove your sales.

Logic doesn’t always make sense! The ideas were not necessarily bad ones – so this shows that we have an emotional attachment to brands and the familiar. Tropicana lost that brand equity they had created over 60 years, so it’s important to learn the elements of your brand that must never be tampered with.

How thorough was the consumer testing before this launch? Could this have picked up on the fact the juice now just looked like every other supermarket brand?

Moving forward

What’s the moral of this Bad Marketing story for you? What should Tropicana have done differently? What will you do differently now if you had to rebrand?

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Chris Rogers

I curate stories of #badmarketing so marketing professionals and business owners like you can learn from the mistakes of others - and produce better marketing that’s right first time. Bad Marketing also aims to be essential reading for marketers, academics & students – and anyone interested in the challenges of marketing.

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