Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Customers are talking - Tropicana hears feedback, brings back old carton

Sometimes the roar of customer feedback can force a multi-million dollar capitulation. Today, the New York Times reported that Tropicana, a unit of PepsiCo, was responding to a wave of negative customer feedback to its recent change in packaging. The Times writes:

Redesigned packaging that was introduced in early January is being discontinued, executives plan to announce on Monday, and the previous version will be brought back in the next month.

Also returning will be the longtime Tropicana brand symbol, an orange from which a straw protrudes. The symbol, meant to evoke fresh taste, had been supplanted on the new packages by a glass of orange juice.

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 online reaction to the new Tropicana package is here and here. (And, to be sure we stay fair and balanced, here is a rave review of the new package.)

One wonders what kind of testing process Tropicana used for the new packaging. I would hope that they used the approach that online services use today--which is to roll out new looks to a limited audience and listen carefully to the feedback before rolling things out across their base. But if so, they would have gotten this feedback far faster and before it became a national news item.

Packaged-goods companies tend to be secretive with their makeovers, often keeping details hidden until a widely publicized, nationwide rollout. The result of this strategy, though, is not hearing feedback, positive or negative, until a great deal of investment has been committed. Meaning a rollback, like Tropicana's doing, is terribly expensive (and highly-publicized).

I wonder how Tropicana will handle their next packaging change?

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