Saturday, October 26, 2013

Stila & St. Tropez Training

This past Tuesday, I was fortunate enough to attend a beauty training for my part-time job hosted by Stila and St. Tropez at the ARC Hotel in downtown Ottawa. I rushed to the venue after a late-afternoon lecture - hair styled and makeup already done. As soon as I entered the door, backpack on and Starbucks in hand, I quickly realized that this wasn’t a “run-of-the-mill” beauty training. Instead of the typical quiet atmosphere, catered hotel buffet, and large conference room where my co-workers and I would sit at perfectly set tables, the night called for a trendy “VIP Experience” (at least, that’s what the flashy itinerary led us to believe).

After my co-workers and I signed in and received our “VIP Passes”, we were escorted up a flight of stairs. While upbeat, popular music blared in the background, we were encouraged to “mingle” in the extremely chic upper portion of the lobby (which was reserved for the event). Hotel staff served mocktails (two varieties) and tasty hors d’oeuvres (mini poutine, chicken skewers, bruschetta, and spring rolls). Brand posters were everywhere and products from various brands (I’m assuming all from the same parent company) where displayed throughout the lobby, just waiting to be tampered with. The brand representatives and makeup artists were wandering through the crowd, handing out handbags and chatting up the beauty experts. The atmosphere really did make it seem as if I was attending an event instead of a training.
(the lobby)
Eventually, the actual training did take place. It was very brief and to-the-point; just the vital information we needed to know. Slideshows and videos were displayed and members from the audience were used in demonstrations. The trainers did a good job of keeping the attendants involved and excited. After the trainings for the two brands, we were encouraged to visit “the library” - a room full of products that we had just had training on. Makeup artists bronzed my forearms and and I swiped on wine-hued lipstick. Professional photographers were scattered around the lobby and “library” to catch all the action taking place. It is, after all, pretty exciting stuff (at least for a self-confessed beauty addict). 
(the library)
I was quite surprised by this approach to the training. When compared to other brand trainings, it was clear that Stila and St. Tropez were trying to make a name for themselves amongst the Ottawa beauty community as “fun” brands. I personally enjoyed it; I found it fresh. I don’t often have the time to sit through 4 to 8 hour lecture-style trainings that I’m not being paid to attend, and sometimes I find the trainings to be quite redundant - the same information being repeated over and over again.
Stila and St. Tropez definitely appeal to a younger crowd, but the brands are versatile enough to reach a wider audience range. I believe that the brands wanted to portray an air of exclusivity to their products - almost like the “cool kids” of the cosmetics industry. The public relations team behind the event did a great job of organizing it. The hotel location was central, the atmosphere was modern and chic, the food was satisfying, and the trainingwas short and informative. It was perfect for the modern young woman - the brand’s prime target audience. 

Making a statement is vital to a brand’s prosperity, and Stila and St. Tropez left a great impression on me. If the brands continue to maintain the quality of their trainings and other events, I’m sure their fan base will grow - as will their success. 

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Tropicana Orange Juice Rebranding Disaster - The Big Squeeze

About a week ago, I wrote a paper on the case study of the rebranding of Tropicana Premium Plus Orange Juice (owned by PepsiCo). While researching for the paper, I discovered a lot of information about PepsiCo and the team behind the rebranding, but I also learned a great amount about emotional branding and consumer loyalty. I would like to share an excerpt from my paper with you all...

(Which do you prefer?)

         Tropicana Pure Premium Orange Juice is a product recognized by consumers throughout North America. Owned and operated by beverage-producing giant PepsiCo, this brand of orange juice has been a household staple since its introduction in 1952. The carton has even become somewhat iconic; it features a fresh orange skewered by a drinking straw, making the juice instantly recognizable in grocery stores and kitchens alike across the continent. 
In early 2009, PepsiCo of North America implemented an extreme rebranding of its most popular beverage brands - Pepsi, Gatorade, Mountain Dew, and Tropicana. Headed by North American CEO Massimo d’Amore and taking creative direction from Peter Arnell (of the advertising company Arnell Group), the mission was to tear down and rebuild the popular beverage brands from the ground up. It was a hasty, unconventional effort; the result of this was evident when Tropicana’s sales plummeted 20% in the two months following the release of its redesigned carton. Giving in to overwhelming consumer demand, PepsiCo took action and quickly scrapped the new design and reverted back to the original. 
The epic failure of the Tropicana rebranding plan has continued to puzzle both PepsiCo and industry experts. What was originally described as being a “historic integrated-marketing and advertisement campaign” was scrapped more quickly than any other major brand undergoing a redesign process in recent history. Why did the rebranding of Tropicana Pure Premium Orange Juice result in such a negative impact on sales? Furthermore, to what extent does emotional branding have on Tropicana consumers? These are vital questions that must be investigated in order to truly understand what went wrong when PepsiCo unveiled the redesigned Tropicana orange juice to North American costumers in 2009.


        Based on the literature, there is a clear connection between emotional branding (or the lack there-of) and the major failure of Tropicana’s rebranding attempt. Tropicana Pure Premium orange juice consumers have grown accustomed to the original carton packaging and the nostalgia behind it. The original packaging does an excellent job of portraying the company’s values - freshness and quality. The image on the carton of the orange and the protruding straw embodies the idea of fresh juice made from Florida handpicked oranges, which is exactly what the company is selling. During the recession, a time when Americans were craving stability and familiarity, many found comfort in a trusted product. When PepsiCo introduced the new carton design to consumers, many did not like what they saw. Instead of a familiar, heartwarming, premium brand of orange juice, a generic-looking, empty-souled carton stood in its place. The identity that customers had associated with Tropicana was quickly lost, and the results were even more evident when the declining sales numbers began to roll in. 
By focusing on a more trendy, modern, cutting-edge carton design, Tropicana lost the emotional branding connection it had with its customers. Perhaps if  Peter Arnell spent more time in the kitchens of everyday North American citizens instead of globe-trotting on a tour of design houses, the rebranding process would have been a success. The project was doomed from the start; Massimo d’Amore only gave his team seven months to conceive new branding arrangements for PepsiCo’s most popular beverage brands in order to meet the Superbowl deadline. Because d’Amore utilized a concurrent approach to the rebranding (simultaneously designing new logos, packaging, ads, and television commercials), there was little time for proper consumer research to be conducted. 
Research is one of, if not the most, important aspects of a communications plan. If proper research is not conducted, a company is just setting itself up for disaster. The RACE method for communications planning is what PepsiCo should have implemented at the start of the rebranding process. The RACE method begins with research, followed by analysis, communication, and evaluation of the proposed plan. Clearly, d’Amore and his team missed a few vital steps. The obvious lack of consumer research further demonstrates the importance of emotional branding. D’Amore and Arnell only focused on what they thought would be perceived as a “cool” and “hip” design for the rebranding, while in reality, the original Tropicana brand image has nothing to do with these attributes. Consumers could not relate to the new Tropicana design and there was no emotional connection to the product, which ultimately resulted in the failure of the redesign and loss of profit. D’Amore and Arnell should have focused on what would appeal to the emotions of current Tropicana consumers. The use of focus groups, interviews, and surveys would have proven extremely useful in the Tropicana rebranding process. The importance of researching a company’s publics should never be underestimated; the customer should always come first. As the literature previously noted, emotional branding is key to marketing success.
The exploration of the Tropicana case study amplifies the importance of the implantation of the RACE method in the field of public relations. The failure of the Tropicana rebranding demonstrates how vital proper research is, as well as the potential consequences of skipping such an important step. Proper planning is one of the most important aspects of public relations; companies may pay the price (figuratively and literally) if they undermine this vital process. 

Friday, October 4, 2013

"Breakfast Loves Nutella"

You may love Nutella, but the real question is... does your body love it as much as you do? 

As a self-proclaimed Nutella addict, I have definitely dipped my spoon into many-a-jar of the chocolate-hazelnut spread. I may be a huge fan of this stuff, but I am also well aware of the nutritional content of each tablespoon I indulge in. 

(My kind of breakfast)

Nutella has had a recent surge in popularity, especially amongst children, teenagers, and young adults. While this is a great thing for the company, the manner in which the product is being branded has caused a bit of a stir. About a year ago in the United States, Nutella was hit with a three million dollar lawsuit due to the brand engaging in misleading marketing. The team behind the branding of Nutella was advertising it as being “a healthy part of breakfast”. Words such as “nutritious” and “healthy” were used in television ads, and a nutritionist was quoted on Nutella’s website. While the spread may contain hazelnuts, it still packs on the sugar and fat. In one tablespoon of Nutella, there are 11 grams of sugar. The recommended daily intake of sugar for men is 36 grams, and for women the recommended intake is 20 grams. So, if a women has two tablespoons of Nutella in one sitting (an easy feat to conquer, believe me), she is already over her recommended dose of sugar. When parents who believed Nutella to be healthy eventually discovered what nutrients (or lack thereof) Nutella actually contained, they were enraged. And so came the relentless lawsuits directed at the company.  

(But honestly, what kind of parent would believe that a chocolate spread is HEALTHY?)

Recently, Canada has also been given the Nutella “health wash” treatment. This is the practice of making a product appear “healthier” than it actually is. Take a look at his excerpt from the Nutella Canada website.

Personally, I don’t blame Nutella’s PR team for taking this kind of “health sheen” approach. In Canada, Nutella is not promoted as being “healthy” or “nutritious”. Instead, the label gives an example of an ideal breakfast (which covers most food groups) in which Nutella can be a part of. Nutella on it’s own is not healthy by any means, but just like any other treat, there is no problem in indulging in it every now and then. If you live an active lifestyle and eat a balanced diet, then occasionally eating Nutella won’t do you much harm. Just like any other food item being purchased and eaten, it all comes down to consumer discretion. One cannot place all of their trust into advertising; if a customer wants to know the nutritional facts of a particular item, they should take it upon themselves to research what they’re actually putting into their body. 

The branding of a product plays a major role in how it is received and how much it sells. Nutella has created a cult-like phenomenon; product sales are soaring. But just like any other “junk” food, you cannot blame the company itself for making you unhealthy. When it comes down to it, the customer is the one making the conscious decision to buy and consume the food. You are in control of what you put into your body - brands should not take the blame while promoting their products. False advertising is one thing, and quality advertising is completely different. Companies have to make money somehow, and if playing up the “health sheen” image helps, then by all means, I believe that  companies have the right to promote a product in that light. At the end of the day, a customer decides what they consume; companies are not physically shoving their products down our throats, and we all need to realize that.