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Robert Trigaux

Tropicana: When OJ rebranding went wrong



Tropicanaad_2 Wake up and good morning. Tropicana is more than an orange juice brand around the Tampa Bay area. Tropicana's a big name in Florida, especially in nearby Bradenton, where it is a major processor of OJ. And Tropicana also has the naming rights to the often maligned but currently beloved St. Petersburg stadium -- Tropicana Field -- that happens to be home to the American League Championship Tampa Bay Rays. So we take special interest when something so fundamental as an OJ rebranding and advertising strategy arrives -- and goes -- in a matter of a month or two. After all, we all have a more than usual vested interest in Tropicana's juice success.

Tropicanaolddesignnownew_2 In January, a new multimedia branding campaign got under way from the juice company's new agency, the Arnell Group in New York, part of the Omnicom Group. As  influential New York Times advertising columnist Stuart Elliott explained at the time, the campaign carried the "typographically challenging" theme “squeeze it’s a natural" meant to evoke the way oranges are turned into Tropicana along with the warm way in which the company wants consumers to embrace the brand. The campaign had an estimated price tag of more than $35 million, which Elliott executives at Tropicana describe as significantly larger than in recent years.

Here's what we noticed. The new brand gave the heave-ho to the longtime Tropicana symbol (shown in the second photo), a straw stuck in an orange that stood for the juice’s fresh taste. Anyone who's gone to a Rays game at Tropicana Field knows that symbol appears prominently on the right field wall. It is, to be frank, a classic.

Well, the new look (as you can see at the top of this posting) was of a ho-hum glass filled with juice and an orange-colored twist cap atop large cartons that is shaped like a halved orange. To be kind, it looks more like a generic label brand. A Fast Company article called it "so bland and undistinguished it looked like the low rent made-from-concentrate stuff."

Well, on Monday, Elliott was back in the New York Times to explain how Tropicana's owner, Pepsico, "now has its own version of New Coke" -- meaning this new ad campaign was a bust just like the 1985 attempt to replace original Coca-Cola with New Coke. Wrote Elliott:

"PepsiCo... is bowing to public demand and scrapping the changes made to a flagship product, Tropicana Pure Premium orange juice. Redesigned packaging that was introduced in early January is being discontinued... and the previous version will be brought back in the next month."

Wrote one design blogger: "In terms of design justice coming down upon crappy design, this day is as big as it gets." Sounds good to me. Keep Tropicana classic.

-- Robert Trigaux, Times Business Columnist

[Last modified: Tuesday, June 1, 2010 11:24am]


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