Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Tropicana To Nation: "Whoops! We Goofed!"

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?

Juice Wars
"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?

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!!!
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.
Focus Group Leader: So, what do you think of the new carton?

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!!!
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:

CitiField Logo
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:

Creative Logo

I worked reeeeaaally hard on it.

Monday, February 23, 2009

Adam and Jay Visit Argentina: Day 3, Muchos Perros


I'm a lover of animals. Though I do have to say, my love has some limits. I've never been a huge fan of dogs, mostly because they often lunge at my crotch. I'm told this behavior means "he likes you," but for me, any creature's sharp teeth near my private area isn't the type of thing I welcome.

Why do I mention this in a recap of my time in Argentina? Well, in Bariloche, Jay and I made some new friends. Friends we had a hard time getting rid of. Like that neighbor in Empty Nest.

Empty Nest!
Ding Ding Ding!! That's The Sound Of Adam's Life Random TV Sitcom Reference Of The Week!!!

These friends were not Charley Dietz, providing comic relief. They were stray dogs-- apparently, there's a lot of them in South America. Because Argentinians don't believe in animal control, they'd rather feed the strays scraps than allow people to round them up and euthanize them. Go figure.

After waking up from my alcohol-induced coma, Jay and I walked through Bariloche with Jay's friend Mark, who he'd met earlier in his travels. We looked at the ice-skating rink (desperately in need of a Zamboni) and walked a little ways out of town along the main road. A lone dog began to follow us. Instantly, I knew wearing my new Purina One aftershave was a mistake.

At least this dog seemed reasonably well-groomed. I figured he'd been left to roam around by his owner. But as we turned a corner and headed down to the beach, another dog joined us. Then another. Soon, we were leading a stray dog parade, interrupted only by the passing of a unfortunate minivan:

When Animals Attack!!
The Dogs Mistook The Minivan For A Giant Steak. There Were No Survivors.

We sped up our pace, but the dogs stayed with us, all the way to a secluded, gorgeous, rocky beach on the shores of Nahuel HuapĂ­. We sat down to take in the scenery and take a nap. The dogs joined us:

Me, Mark and Some Stray Dogs
Minutes Later, Mark Disappeared Mysteriously

The view on the beach was pretty incredible, and the wind coming off the lake was intense, but refreshing on a sunny, cool day. I can imagine that the windsurfing must have been pretty great just about then:

Sure, That's Me...

Jay and I were a little mystified as to where his friend Mark went, but the dogs did seem a little fatter. "How do we get rid of these dogs?" Jay said in our secret human language. "I don't know," I said. "But maybe we can lose them if we walk on ridiculously rocky terrain back into town."

Trying To Lose The Dogs
Well, That Didn't Work

Finally we reached a point where one path led up to town, one path led down to the beach, where a group of Argentinians were sitting in the shade. Jay and I looked at each other, and immediately had the same idea. We headed down the path, leading the dogs... and then, the moment they started to look at the other group...

We took off the other way.

I do mean took off. Ran. Up the street, in relatively high elevation. We were both winded when we reached the main square of town. No more dogs!! Well, except this guy:

Don't Even Think About It, Fido

We had some time to kill before my cousin Mark and his fiancee Kati arrived, so Jay and I went to, what else, the town's only casino. Having successfully lost all my money in Peru, I wasn't too optimistic. But Jay and I got a run of incredibly lucky cards, and I left up 150.

Pesos. But still. Not bad.

My cousin's arrival was met with hugs and a big Mexican dinner at Los Dos Zapatos. I recommend the carne fajitas. Muy bien. We also had some of the most sickeningly sweet margaritas I've ever had.

We couldn't party too hard though. Tomorrow we were off on yet another adventure. A three day, two night camping trip along the Seven Lakes route. At dinner, we looked through our guidebooks: Frommer's, Lonely Planet, and Rough Guide. On one of the last pages in the Rough Guide, there was a cryptic, one-sentence note about some hot springs located at the end of a "rocky" road. "That sounds interesting," I said.

Oh Adam. When will you learn?

Tomorrow, more. I promise.

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