big city creative strikes out

if it ain't broke - no really, don't fix it!Last January 8, PepsiCo owned Tropicana rolled out their stunningly bland new corporate look, a makeover fashioned by Omnicom owned NYC shop Arnell, at a campaign launch cost pegged by some at no less than $35 million. A little less than two months later, PepsiCo couldn’t shovel dirt on it fast enough. The funeral was February 23.

That little detour down “Don’t Even Think About It” Lane has now, according to the April 2 issue of AdAge, reportedly cost the powerhouse beverage brand 20% in unit sales, 19% in dollars ($33 million) and unknown market share damage. Ka-pow! For those who still think packaging’s no big deal and brand management is way overrated, this Oh-Jay’s for you.

During that time frame – 47 days – competitors like Florida’s Natural (my brand – see below: notice the orange segment screw cap and the orange blossom apostrophe), Coke brand Minute Maid and others gained double-digit upticks, and private label juice wasn’t far behind. In other words, there was a vacuum to fill, and nature obliged.

florida's natural uses a blossom apostrophe instead of a straw

Not too surprisingly, PepsiCo’s suits don’t see a connection. (It’s said distant relatives were lookouts on the Titanic.) Try telling it to a judge. In the court of public opinion, where the swap out of just right traditional kitsch for a flavorless, colorless, passionless, humorless replacement was immediately  hammered with righteous contempt. They call this voting with your pocketbook.

There’s a vid-clip of slightly condescending Peter Arnell defending his shops work. Meanwhile, this consumer struggles to understand what was so urgent about rebranding Trop’s Gatorade beverage to the vague and distant “G”?

Our takeaway lesson, then, is 1) never sell brand image power – in this case, packaging – short, and 2) test your theory first – on strangers, not kiss-up underlings – before monkeying with that brand. Unless you’ve got nearly $70 million to burn. And orange juice drinkers aren’t even done counting.