business news in context, analysis with attitude

The New York Times reports that PepsiCo-owned Tropicana, having gotten overwhelmingly negative reaction to the redesigned packaging and graphics being used for its orange juice, is scrapping the new designs and returning to the old packaging and symbol.

The longtime Tropicana brand symbol had been an orange with a straw sticking out of it, but it was replaced by a glass of orange juice. Next month, according to the report, the orange and straw will return.

Most of the negative reaction seemed to suggest that the new packaging was ugly and generic, and made it difficult to differentiate Tropicana from private label brands.

Neil Campbell, president at Tropicana North America in Chicago, tells the Times that current technologies made it possible for consumer complaints to be made more quickly and loudly than in the past; in addition, Campbell says, the complaints that concerned the company the most came from loyal customers. “We underestimated the deep emotional bond” they had with the original packaging, Campbell tells the Times. “Those consumers are very important to us, so we responded.”

KC's View:
The reaction to the new packaging and graphics may have been sour, but Tropicana’s response is sweet. I’m sure that the folks at Tropicana must be shaking their heads right now, having done plenty of market research to assure that the decision to change was a smart thing. But they deserve kudos for being willing to listen to their shoppers and adjust. Quickly.

It hasn’t been a good week for the market research business, it seems to me. Today we have the story about Tropicana, and yesterday we had stories about how Tesco’s market research in the US wasn't quite up to the task of being relevant to American consumers.

You have to wonder if these market researchers are asking the wrong questions, or just not listening to or misinterpreting the answers.

Maybe it is a good time to reconsider the role of market research, or the ways in which it is being used to dictate decisions.