(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.