21 March 2009

Tropicana OJ Redesign FAIL: The Brand Redesign That Should Have Worked ... But Didn't

1990.Sometimes you get a design that clicks, that's solid, that absolutely nails it. Anyone who knows anything about design ... and a lot of people who don't know design and aren't emotionally invested in your look ... will look at this design and say "Good golly–that's dead cool."

Such a design, in my opinion, is the recent Tropicana redesign. Leaving behind the "straw into the orange" and traditional type with the studly majuscule T in the front is a picture of the actual product was a clean, bright design by the Peter Arnell concern.

Illustration via Logo Design Love

Now, this is what I call an evolved design. Unified, accessable, appropriate type, and the product–and all its percieved quality–right up front (ever tried to actually suck orange juice out of an orange via a straw? Mur-der, at least on the old cheeks, there. And notice that the plastic cap has become a little tiny half orange (called by some wags the orange b**bie, where *=o).

Brilliant, tight, designed.

And everybody hated it. Hated, Hated, Hated, Hated, Hated it![1]:

IT took 24 years, but PepsiCo now has its own version of New Coke ... The about-face comes after consumers complained about the makeover in letters, e-mail messages and telephone calls and clamored for a return of the original look.

Some of those commenting described the new packaging as “ugly” or “stupid,” and resembling “a generic bargain brand” or a “store brand.”

“Do any of these package-design people actually shop for orange juice?” the writer of one e-mail message asked rhetorically. “Because I do, and the new cartons stink.”

Others described the redesign as making it more difficult to distinguish among the varieties of Tropicana or differentiate Tropicana from other orange juices.
Tropicana's old design will return within a month due to apparently-overwhelming consumer demand. I hear the orange "b**bie" will remain, however,

A lot of designers I've read via teh Google are unhappy with the redesign as well, so the design mind is hardly of monadic character on this. I disagree. The new design is clean, appropriate, relies on a strong typographical theme and puts the quality of the product right up front. I think it was timely, but as with ever New Coke moment, sometimes you just can't help but underestimate how emotionally attached customers are to a look and feel.

For a lot, Tropicana without the orange-with-a-straw just isn't Tropicana.

Well, someone did once say a day without orange juice is like a day without sunshine.

Just for the sake of the record, the design is (at this writing anyway) still up at the Tropicana products website. Here's a screenshot:

And here's an example of the print ad design:

The warm oranges being a counterpoint "splash of color" next to black and white photos of smiling nice people form an interesting dynamic tension. The print ad format and the website format are winners too. I respond to them. Shame more people don't.

The designer whose name is on the project, Peter Arnell, is put in the odd situation of defending a successful redesign:

According to Peter, it’s about giving each other hugs, and “the power of love”.

Upon such intangibles is identity design supported, but it seems axiomatic: allying Tropicana with warm colors and affectionate images bespeaks similar qualities in the product itself–warmth, affection, goodness. Logo Design Love has the designer speaking at a press conference about it, which can be viewed here.

[1] apologies to Roger Ebert.

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Dale said...

For me, the trouble with Tropicana is a basic confusion -- are they selling orange juice or "orange drink"? Something in the presentation -- whether the visuals or the text or the combination -- leaves doubts in my mind. As I think about it -- and this is the kind of thing you can tend to overthink -- I think it's the name, "tropicana." It doesn't give me confidence that we're talking about fruit juice as opposed to highly processed corn syrup.

And *that* is almost certainly the most I've ever written on the subject of Tropicana.

mredpopo said...

As much as I agree that the new design was not given its due credit, there is truth to the "generic brand" critique. Here is a picture of Publix brand orange juice carton.


The Publix one is pretty bad, with the picture that looks like it came right off a stock images site and the "Publix Premium" that runs together as one word. But the Tropicana redesign is similar enough that you can see how people who don't pay much attention when grabbing stuff off the shelves (aka: most people) would have trouble telling the difference.

Also, giving up a brand symbol as strong as the orange with the straw is risky move and, as you said, for some its just not Tropicana without it. Shame because the simple glass image with the type in it is much cleaner and fresher.

So I can see to some extend why so much of the public lashed out, but I agree with you ultimately. It should have worked.

Samuel John Klein said...

I definitely think we see the same things here, mredpopo.

Your insight is well put and your point is taken however. There is an element of "genericness" that comes as kind of shocking, doubtless, to the people who'd formed an attachment to the orange-and-straw; the orange is whimsical and friendly, the new design much more down-to-business.

But I think the new design is saved by the confident use of type here, which seems to follow the rule of 'go large or go home'. Some of my artist friends who like brutalism would maybe say it's "big, bold, and butch', but there's also something soft and cheery about the unassuming aspects (simple lines, no serifs) of the type.

The Publix design is a fail for all the reasons you've pointed out. To me, the type is weak and has a 911 need for something, hierarchy, anything ... the photography is unexceptional, and you have to work even harder to make sure you're getting the right variety – the type doesn't just invite you in, it demands you come in and find it!

The meek, light brand name type "PUBLIXPREMIUM" against the black stripe and the white "ORANGE JUICE" against the orange almost beg you not to read it. It's almost as Publix is afraid someone will figure out that they've packaged it up.

As far as Tropicana goes, you can't argue with the public though, especially if its something they hold close to their hearts ... like that friendly, goofy orange. Shame you can't always guess right along that line!