Never Mind! Pepsi Pulls Much-loathed Tropicana Packaging

Laid up with the flu recently, my daughter sent her boyfriend out for chicken soup and orange juice. What he brought back appalled her. "There was this carton of juice on the counter that looked like the generic supermarket brand," she told me. "I thought—gee, he doesn't think I'm worth the good stuff?" She was wrong; he had bought the ‘good stuff'—her favorite brand, Tropicana—but the juice's new packaging was so bland and undistinguished it looked like the low rent made-from-concentrate stuff.

Tropicana Orange JuiceMelissa was not alone in her confusion. Outraged Tropicana loyalists have been flooding the blogs for months to protest the brand's lackluster redesign, calling it everything from "ugly" to "stupid" to "generic." Now, Pepsi execs are finally conceding defeat. They announced late last week that they're bringing back the old look—the classic orange with the straw poking out—that consumers loved…or at least didn't find as offensive as the new look.

It's another embarrassment among several recently that can be traced back to the Arnell Group, the design and branding firm responsible for the Tropicana packaging, the new Pepsi logo, and the crazy brand manifesto, "Breathtaking," that traces Pepsi's brand back to Da Vinci's Vitruvian man and compares the logo's gravitational pull to that of the sun.

That piece of work has been the talk of the chattering classes in New York for weeks, and the butt of a million blog postings online. Following the launch of the company's SuperBowl ads (during which Arnell famously compared himself to Thomas Edison for his brilliance in creating a 3-D ad for the game), I had a chance to sit down with Pepsi execs to talk a bit about their brand strategy.

Even then, they were chagrined about the failure of the Tropicana redesign. "Sometimes you land in a great place, and sometimes you don't. And when you don't, you need to find a better place. Fast," Pepsi's CMO, David Burwick conceded. At the end of the table, one of his lieutenants could barely conceal a snicker. "Words like 'tweak' are in order," he said. "Or beyond 'tweak.'" 

To its credit, the larger, $35M campaign, based on the idea of "Squeeze" has been more successful, and Arnell's clever little cap, shaped like half an orange, will still be used in Trop 50, the company's lower calorie juice.

But you have to wonder what's being said behind closed doors up in Purchase, and if the three strikes rule applies to branding consultants as well as major league batters and felons in California.

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  • Sasha

    Pepsi underrated the fact that Tropicana has consumers so attached to the old-‘Tropic’ packaging that they were unlikely to appreciate a younger looking futuristic design. We did an eye tracking study on the effectiveness of the 'New' pack in the UK where we have never had the straw graphic and the results predict a 13% loss of sales. Tropicana shoppers don’t see new packages at shelf and are drawn to Tesco’s own brand products that have some similarities to the UK Tropicana pack. The truth about the sales loss has little to do with that graphic, and everything to do with shoppers ‘ability to find the new packages at shelf. Consumers have to find the product at shelf before they can buy it. One eye tracking study and this could have been avoided!

  • Susan Long

    Wow, I can't believe they are pulling the redesign! I must admit, I wasn't a big fan of the redesign when I first saw it, but the cleaned up look has started to grow on me so I'm going to miss that BUT from day one I've always felt that the orange & straw is a much stronger image than the glass of oj they went with. It's amazing the power we consumers really do have.

  • Donald Cederquist

    Everyone is caught up in the aesthetics (and I agree with that as well as the rotational symmetry that has disappeared from the Pepsi logo), but is overlooking the other aspect, the volume of the container. The redesign went from 2 quarts to 1.75 liters, a decrease in the amount of product. I'm fine with using System International units (metric) but do not appreciate being duped marketing.

  • Rob Kristie

    Ecstatic and scared are what I feel about this... let me explain.

    I own a web design company in Las Vegas called webOrange. When I saw this packaging I was at first shocked and then outraged. You could place an image of that carton on my home page and it would fit right in. It was almost as if they had looked at my website and then decided to design the carton based off of the style of my website! Of course, Tropicana is a much larger brand then webOrange, so I had to do some quick rebranding, not a lot, just changed the color of the green I used (which was almost an exact match with the one on the carton) and change the orange color to a gradient, however a full rebranding of the site is underway so I can distance myself from this.

    So, I am happy they are getting rid of this branding, and hopefully it will be quickly erased from people's memory so I can go back to my original site design, which I had gotten a lot of compliments on until this came out (then the feedback I got wwas "your site looks like the new Tropicana cartons"). It is a shame I have to spend time rebranding my entire company and website because of this, but I guess that is what happens to the little guy.

    At the same time, if so many people hated the look of the carton, I wonder if my initial design work on my own company was just as hated? Either way, I think I have to just distance myself from this as much as possible.

    For the record, the people who did say my company looked like the tropicana carton also said mine looked better, lol.

  • Maggie Weinberg

    THANK YOU LINDA! I don't even drink OJ but, like your daughter, I happened to get sick & buy some when the new packaging launched and was thoroughly appalled. And, for the record, I don't think APPALLED is too strong a word. Sure there are other things that are MORE appalling but this packaging was straight up offensive (minus the cute cap!).

  • Lori Hilber

    Seriously, don't we have something a little more substanative to be "appalled" about. Lack of access to clean drinking water results in millions of deaths each year and we get "appalled" over having to drink generic orange juice. We live in such an affluent culture we have lost touch with what is trully appalling. Okay, I will get off my soapbox now :).

  • kristi faulkner

    My husband actually accused me of buying generic! He only likes one certain kind of OJ, and when they changed the packaging, he flipped. Not that he read it very closely, but it looked like generic cheap stuff. Those of us who are habitual shoppers don't look too closely either. We know our brands and can recognize them by rote. The change of packaging gave me pause and caused me to look closely at the other brands too. Glad the old packaging is returning.

  • John J

    Immediately repelled by new package- dead ringer for generic juice. Literally had the very same debate at the refrigerator case- "Yes, no, wait... generic, nah. Wait, Tropicana? What the?"

  • Erika Schneider

    Thank goodness, I was feeling scammed out of my $4. Bring the bright old-school packaging back. See what happens if the masses respond? If only the masses could get together for something a teeny bit more productive, like standing up to the corruption in politics, protesting the useless war or universal healthcare.

  • Daniela Capistrano

    I actually experienced something similar. I brought home a carton of OJ with the new packaging and thought I had purchased the wrong juice. I was annoyed until I looked closer and discovered I was wrong. I didn't even think to go complain about it, but it goes to show how brand recognition does play a role in my life to a certain degree.