advertising and other stuff. no, really.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Congrats! The public hates your design. Now what?

Maybe you saw the New York Times article out about the Tropicana redesign and how that’s just going over like gangbusters. While it’s nice to respond to the public outcry, it’s ironic given they’re owned by Pepsi, a brand itself that has ignored public opinion regarding its own redesign issues.

From everything I’ve seen, Pepsi went out of its way to ignore the full range of comments about their redesign. Ironic even more given the common denominator for both efforts in this case is the design work of Arnell. As for the response, Neil Campbell from Tropicana:

Rather, the criticism is being heeded because it came ... from some of “our most loyal consumers.””

Thing is, people have been saying stuff about brands for a long time now on blogs and elsewhere, not just on Twitter when something goes wrong.

Unlike Pepsi, Tropicana is responding to their loyalists now by going back to the old packaging. It’s easy to look back and say would/should/coulda when things go bad. Listening to those who love and use your stuff ahead of time produces a more genuine connection however, not just reaching out to the ones with the most followers.

Are the two mutually exclusive? Maybe. Tropicana CEO Massimo d'Amore:

“...people do not buy design. They buy products.”

True for the most part. Even though I tear into the new Pepsi work I still use both products because I prefer them to any other brands. I don’t care what the Tropicana in my fridge looks like right now, I just know I like it over others I’ve tried.

For consumers though, packaging is the one thing that they subconsciously count on to anchor the brand in their mind. The last line of defense in the grocery aisle. You do not mess with what Mommy Bloggers™ put in the fridge or on the dinner table.

If an ad campaign like Snicker’s near gay-almost kiss gets people up in arms? No problem. People still have the familiarity of the packaging to fall back on. Ads may create moods for the brand, but packaging lasts longer in the cycle—and in consumers’ minds.

Still, I feel for any designer whose work fails to go over well because I’ve been there. Haven’t we all? If the work was good, but the product relaunch failed because of other factors like shortages, poor distribution, lousy ad campaign, etc., that’s one thing.

But if the public hated what you did and was actually vocal enough to get the work changed back, that’s different.

Polarizing an audience isn’t always bad. Look at Burger King’s work with The King, a character you either hated or loved. Sales were up though for a long time with him so the brand likely loved the extra PR. Wendy’s red-haired freaks? Not so much. Franchisees screamed “JUMP!” and the brand said “How high?”
Unrealistic to expect, but when an agency creates major negative buzz resulting in a brand scrapping its relaunch at a cost of millions, don’t they owe them something back? (Pepsi is still happy with Arnell apparently, even though agencies have lost clients over far less.)

I understand the argument against doing this can be made by looking at other creative fields: Jim Carry ain’t giving back part of his 20 million per picture fee just because a film tanks. He gets his up front because the studio knows signing him guarantees a return of x-amount come opening weekend. The success of the film is still dependent on the director, producer, crew and studio.

Same with athletes. Beckham, T.O. or A-Rod ain’t giving back anything either. Ultimately, if they don’t perform, it comes back to bite them in terms of asking price down the road, but most dudes get their dollars, whether they play or not, (no matter what the reason). Like movies too, many things have to come together for them to succeed, from coaches, game plans and teammates doing their part.

In this case however, it begins and ends with the vision of the designer. (To a lesser degree, the marketing director who brought them in.) I side with the agency but have to always respect the brand.

As it is with a logo, packaging is sold in on the idea of how it makes people feel about your brand. You’re convincing the client that your design will do good things for them in the eyes of consumers.

Redesigning any brand packaging is risky. (I’ve done package redesign on major brands and know the careful moves you have to make in evolving a look forward.) Any change, revolutionary or not, is risky.

People expect consistency from their brands.

Listening to the Fan in New York yesterday and head something by chance that applies here. Coach John Calipari of likely Final Four team Memphis was talking about their run this year and said that when you’re very successful as they’d been, people expect you not to lose any game. A result other than a W? Unacceptable. (Don’t Yankee fans always expect to be there in October?)

Same here I suspect with the outcry. You expect brands like a Pepsi, a Coke, an Apple, etc., to not make mistakes each time out, and so you give them less room to breathe than you would a Peet’s Coffee or a Super 8.

Sure, some will hate, some will love what you do, but you hope the negative response is minimal, because you can live with that. When it’s not, you need to listen—maybe even ahead of time.

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(Images via.)


Anonymous said...

I think logos are important to consumers in terms of brands especially for food products. Still whether a logo of a certain brand change if the product is good people will always buy it. There are some ways that your brand will be remembered by buyers. Thanks anyways for a great article.

Anonymous said...

These are always challenging debates. Typically the public has a hard time with the new, and as such, it's a shame that the new identity was released and then pulled in such a knee-jerk fashion. Lots of great things die before their time due to a conservative audience (think: Arrested Development).

That being said, my feeling is that both of the logos are simply misaligned with the products they're selling. They're sterile and cold, which seems strange given the nature of the brands themselves.

RebelScum said...

Has it ever occurred to anyone that Tropicana intentionally creaded a bad package design in the hopes of getting this kind of feedback?

Could Pepsi have just New-Coked us all?

Anonymous said...

The client to agency/design team, "Make it look more contemporary. You know - minimalist. Sort of like 'Real Simple' magazine aesthetic ... but for orange juice. Whatchagot?"

And out came THAT. Plop plop. Fizz, fizz.

Oh what a relief it is to a) get attention in the marketplace and b) REACT fast so we don't lose market share!

What ever happened to testing with focus groups? Cheaper if not as absolutely spot-on FOR REAL.