After perplexing consumers for months with an ill-advised packaging switch that made their orange juice look crappy, Tropicana has reversed course and vowed to return to their original "orange and straw" carton.
Neil Campbell, president at Tropicana North America in Chicago said the company was responding to complaints from a loyal group of customers. "We underestimated the deep emotional bond" they had with the original packaging, he told the New York Times. "Those consumers are very important to us, so we responded."
As The New York Times pointed out:
Among those who underestimated that bond was Mr. Campbell himself. In an interview last month to discuss the new packaging, he said, “The straw and orange have been there for a long time, but people have not necessarily had a huge connection to them.”Ooh, someone's got egg on their face!
You be the judge. Which screams "fresh squeezed orange juice not from concentrate?" A straw sticking into a whole, ripe, juicy orange? Or a glass filled with a pale yellowish liquid?
"Hey, I've Got A Great Idea! Let's Change An Iconic, Beloved Product!!!!"
Fortunately, Tropicana had the wisdom to recognize their horrendous error and fix it before much damage was done. But the whole gaffe raises an issue I've been thinking a lot about recently. The utter uselessness of focus groups and traditional "market testing" for new products in this Internet age.
The thinking behind Tropicana's "need for change" was boneheaded from the start. I wasn't there at the PepsiCo offices that day, but I can imagine the conversation went something like this:
Clueless CEO: In these tough times, we need to set ourselves apart from the other orange juice manufacturers out there. How do we do it?Bad ideas start in corporate groupthink meetings, and they often get worse in focus groups, compiled of people who have the time to attend focus groups, who need the $20 or so stipend these focus groups pay, and who like the sound of their own voices.
Stooge #1: We need an O.J. spokesperson. Too bad there's no celebrity with the initials, O.J.
Stooge #2: When people hear "juice," they think "sticky and weird." What if we called it, "Orange Essence?"
Stooge #3: A new ad campaign! How about, "Orange you glad it's Tropicana?"
Clueless CEO: Good ideas, but I was thinking about making our juice stand out in the supermarket.
Stooge #4: Well, every orange juice out there has an orange on the front of the carton. What if we didn't have an orange on the front. What if we had a naked chick with oranges for boobs?
Clueless CEO: I love it, but our research shows more women than men buy orange juice.
Stooge #4: So put oranges instead of a guy's...
Stooge #1: How about just a glass of orange juice.
Clueless CEO: Just a glass?
Stooge #1: Like, who sticks a straw into an orange and takes a drink? I drink my orange juice from a glass.
Stooge #2: Me too!!
Stooge #4: I drink my orange juice from an Indian skull I dug up... but I like the idea.
Clueless CEO: It's settled then. Instead of our iconic, universally recognized orange and straw symbol, we'll go with a generic looking glass filled with a vague yellow-orange liquid.
All: Huzzah!!!! Huzzah!!!
Focus Group Leader: So, what do you think of the new carton?In this Internet age, there's no reason for a focus group. If Coca-Cola had announced on the internet that it was considering dropping Coke and instead, making "New Coke," the internet would have put them in their place. All Tropicana needed to do was send a press release, or survey, out to the web (via bloggers or their own website), and they would have had instant feedback in minutes from people who cared enough to voice their opinions without being paid. They would have known that a glass of a vague yellow liquid is about the lamest brand symbol anyone's come up with since the logo design for the New York Mets CitiField:
Focus Group Guy: This is so awesome!
Focus Group Leader: The new package?
Focus Group Guy: No, the fact that I don't have a job that requires me to work during the day, and I can earn $20 making a bunch of corporate suits who hang on my every word do exactly what I say, even though I'm a complete idiot!
Focus Group Leader: So the carton?
Focus Group Guy: Can they make it a curvy glass, like a wine glass? That's classy!
Clueless CEO (behind one-way mirror): Brilliant!!!
Were They Even Trying?
The Internet provides instant access to millions of consumers, something that just about everybody has figured out by now. Why not use that medium as a testing ground for new ideas, BEFORE you waste time and money on an idea dreamed up by some guy who wouldn't know what creativity was even if they were roommates with Picasso, Woody Allen and Beck?
With that in mind, I've come up with a new logo for Adam's Life. I present it to you now for your opinion. If you guys like it, consider it this blog's new avatar:
I worked reeeeaaally hard on it.