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New and Not Necessarily Improved

A story in the March 3, 2009 issue of the LA Times regarding the unfavorably received new Pepsi brand redesign reminded me of another recent unsuccessful redesign—the one for Tropicana orange juice.

A few months ago, I was in a Target store buying some orange juice. I usually get the Tropicana brand, and was disappointed when I didn't see any in the cases. I just saw a bunch of unfamiliar cartons that I immediately wrote off as "not Tropicana" and kept looking around. It was only during a second pass that I realized that these new cartons were indeed Tropicana. Wow, I thought, that's a pretty radical new look. Gone were any vestiges of familiarity--the funky old-style logo, and especially the orange with the straw stuck in it. The new carton is dominated by a large shot of a tasteful-looking (not necessarily tasty-looking) glass of orange juice, with the word "Tropicana" in an unfamiliar sans serif font and green color turned 90ยบ clockwise along the side. They didn't keep ANY of the elements of the old package and I think this was its downfall. When you're dealing with such a familiar and iconic product, I think you have to be extra-cautious introducing a new design. The new design isn't hideous; it's actually very tasteful, but perhaps too much so. It's so tasteful it's really quite generic and inexpensive-looking, which I'm sure wasn't their intent. Indeed, when I first saw it in the cases I thought they were a new Target generic brand in the style of their "Market Pantry" products. Apparently I wasn't the only one who was discombobulated by this new package; due to the overwhelming negative response to the redesign, Tropicana's actually going back to the old packaging (but retaining the family photo-oriented ads, which I think are nice). I'm not sure if that's the right solution, either, and I'm afraid things will be muddled for the Tropicana brand for a while. here are just a couple of articles I found on how the new redesign has failed: From the Daily Heller blog, entitled "Orange You Sad…", and a reaction from the packaging blog Dieline.

So this brings us back to Pepsi. I think the same mistakes were made—not retaining the successful elements of a product's brand equity. It's the very definition of throwing the baby out with the bathwater. And I didn't realize it wasn't just for the colas; apparently they'd also redesigned the labels for Sierra Mist and Mountain Dew, the latter also having undergone a name change to "Mtn Dew." Hm, this just smacked of the time when everyone would just slap the word "extreme" or the letter "X" on everything to instantly give something a cachet of cool. Pretty soon it became anything but. I'm thinking this pandering to the txt speak generation will most likely have a very short shelf life.

Strangely enough (or not), these redesigns were done by the same company: Arnell Group. I just visited their site and found it very curious. It's EXTREMELY minimal with absolutely no pictures of anything, even their work. Upon doing some minor internet searching, I came across this interesting article on the Package Design Magazine site. There was no date on it so I'm not exactly sure when it was posted, but it must have been a few years ago, when Arnell was tapped to do the last redesign for Pepsi. In it, there's a rather prescient paragraph that reads, "Pepsi actually asked their loyal consumers what brand elements would have to remain so that they would be intuitively reassured that their favorite drinks were not changing and the brand they trusted was still essentially the same. Their answer was direct and consistent. Pepsi-lovers needed to see three elements for sure—the Pepsi "globe," the iconic Pepsi blue, and the familiar tilted Pepsi capital letters." I realize some time has passed between these two redesigns, but so much that users (loyal or otherwise) wouldn't still be looking for these familiar elements on the store shelves?

Steph Windham

UPDATE 4/27/09: After encountering this article in Newsweek about Peter Arnell, some of the mystery about this firm and its founder has lifted. It prompted me to revisit the Arnell Group website and noticed that it's very different from what I saw a few months ago. Now there are actual pictures, and there is bio of its founder, looking very casual and approachable--very different from the impression I got about him from the Newsweek article. Then again, he is supposed to be the master of reinvention.


Tropicana's new packaging looks very minimal and "European". I don't like it. It appears that they are seeking a look that is fresh and clean to convey that message about their oranges to the consumers. No doubt about it that they are trying to compete with the Organics.

Pepsi's new look is just plain awful too. It reminds me of this logo...

Interesting post. I probably wouldn't have noticed the new look because I don't drink either product...

FYI - It's Girls Scout Cookie Season!!!
adnohr said…
I think that Pepsi were trying to jump on the Obama-fever bandwagon. Look how much the new logo looks like the Obama campaign logos!
Sharkride said…
Hi Patty and David!

The Pepsi rebrand is mystifying. So much visibility, so much history and all of it thrown to the wind in favor of this. I don't get it!

Oh, but maybe they missed The New Coke debacle of the 80s. . . Yeah, that's it!

Thomas N. Schenden
Girl, Please! said…
I fully agree with the Tropicana snafu.

We are currently in an in-house web redesign and the entire process makes me want to vomit.

Never have people with agency experience mix with people who are strictly in-house corporate. The agency person's head will explode at all of the crap that is flying across the board.

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