Magazine article Marketing

Mark Ritson on Branding: Freshly Squeezed

Magazine article Marketing

Mark Ritson on Branding: Freshly Squeezed

Article excerpt

Design gurus may have all the answers, but as Tropicana proves, you have to ask the right question.

At the start of the year, it all seemed to make perfect sense. PepsiCo decided that Tropicana, one of its biggest brands, was in need of a major brand overhaul. In January, the company told assembled journalists to expect an 'historic integrated marketing campaign' and a redesign that would 'reinforce the brand and product attributes' and 'rejuvenate the category'.

Then PepsiCo introduced its secret weapon. In swept Peter Arnell, chief executive of brand and innovation agency the Arnell Group. In a rambling speech, he described a five-month 'journey' that had resulted in 'dramatic' changes leading to Tropicana's packaging being 'engineered' to 'imply ergonomically' the 'notion of squeezing'.

Those with prior exposure to Arnell were not surprised by the incoherent grandeur of his presentation that day. This was the designer who had made reference to the Mona Lisa, the Parthenon and the Golden Ratio in his explanation of the Pepsi logo he had created in 2008; who owns 1600 pairs of spectacles; and famously lost almost 18 stones in weight by eating carrots, cucumber and steamed cauliflower (dipped in mustard and sesame seeds) every day for two years. The guru celebre was in the house.

There was just one problem. Arnell's design for Tropicana was awful. Its clean lines and empty aesthetics achieved something Tropicana's competitors had failed to in 20 years - a degradation of its brand equity and an undermining of its status as market leader. Devoid of its signature design of an orange and a straw, the package looked like a bland, private-label juice. The deficiency was noted first by design students commenting on blogs and then angry consumers who could not find the brand in stores. Finally, it began to hit sales.

Overindulge the creative whim at the expense of the brief and the brand will always pay the price. The disastrous London 2012 logo solicited public disgust in 2007, but there was little, if any, way to calculate the lost impetus from Wolf Olins' lacklustre design. But the same mis-step in such an established, ultra-competitive and fast-moving category as fresh juices comes complete with an immediate and estimable impact on the bottom line. Tropicana's new look has coincided with a sales slump of 20% for the brand this year - dollars 33m (pounds 22.1m) in sales lost to competitors including Minute Maid, Florida Natural and private labels, all of which are reporting sizable share gains. …

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