What Were They Thinking? When The Fizz Went Flat For Crystal Pepsi

New product developers and marketers tend to be slaves to trends. And Pepsi was no different in the early '90s when it jumped on the clear trend. It was consumers’ perception that clear meant healthy. It worked for one of their competitors with the introduction of Clearly Canadian, and it was working in other categories like personal care and laundry detergent, so why not for them?

Pepsi introduced Crystal Pepsi, a caffeine-free clear cola in 1992. Although initial sales were good, it quickly fizzled and was discontinued in 1993.

Where They Went Wrong

1. Flavor Miscommunication – The package said "Clear Cola" so you would expect it to taste like a cola, right? Well, the package also had a red flag that said "Citrus Taste." Is it a cola flavor or a citrus flavor? I’m confused, and apparently so was everyone else.

2. Taste – Whether it was supposed to taste like a cola or a citrus-flavored soft drink, it really didn’t taste good at all. Food & Beverage 101 says you only get one shot with the consumer when it comes to new products. If it doesn’t taste good the first time, you will never get another chance—and that’s exactly what happened.

3. Why Should I Care? – There was really no explanation on why a clear cola would be any better or different than a dark cola. As far as the citrus flavor, Pepsi already had introduced Sierra Mist, so tell me again, why should I drink Crystal Pepsi?

The Takeaway

So what can we learn from this?

1) Trends Can Be Tricky – It is always important to consider current and future trends, but don’t bet the farm strictly on trends alone. It could result in a short-term spike in sales only and leave you with no long-term gains.

2) Differentiate It – The benefit of a new product should be transparent to the consumer. Make it easy for them to know why they need to purchase it in the first place. Yes, I know in this case we are talking about a soft drink, but tell me about the great flavor and taste experience I’m going to have and why it is different from other products on the shelf.

3) Taste – Great flavor is king—enough said. 

Sandstorm Inc. is an innovation firm specializing in the upfront insights and innovation process. Author Sandie Glass and Laura Wolfram bring a combined 34 years of experience in helping Fortune 500 companies like Procter & Gamble, Disney, Nike, American Express, GlaxoSmithKline and M&M/Mars tap into their creativity to achieve business solutions for market success.   

[Image: Flickr user archiemcphee]

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