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The Costly Misstep: How Tropicana Lost Over $50 Million

The ill-fated move that cost Tropicana more than $50 million

The food industry is a challenging business, and losing money is not uncommon. Factors such as shifts in consumer spending, inflation, and crop failures can significantly impact profit margins. However, one of the most devastating ways to lose money is through a failed rebranding effort designed to generate more revenue. Tropicana, a well-known brand in the beverage industry, experienced this firsthand when it embarked on a costly redesign of its iconic orange juice carton. The result was so disastrous that it has become a textbook example of what not to do in the world of rebranding.

A costly rebrand

In an attempt to stay current and competitive in an increasingly saturated market, Tropicana turned to advertisers and brand builders for a fresh approach. They hired Arnell Advertising and paid a staggering $35 million for the rebranding project. The new juice carton was unveiled in early January 2009, but within a month, Tropicana had lost another $20 million in sales. Recognizing the failure, the company quickly scrapped the new design and returned to its original packaging.

The Intentions Behind the Rebranding

At first, rebranding Tropicana’s orange juice carton seemed like a promising idea. The goal was to modernize the Tropicana logo and emphasize the fresh-squeezed nature of the juice. The new design was intended to be a more elegant and sophisticated alternative to the original carton that consumers had become familiar with over the years.

The drastic changes

Tropicana’s new branding brought significant changes to the look of the carton. Almost everything was changed (according to Better Marketing). The iconic image of an orange with a straw was eliminated, as was the phrase “Pure Premium,” which was replaced with “100% Pure and Natural Orange Juice. The brand name itself moved from a horizontal position on the front to a vertical position along the side of the carton. The familiar orange image was replaced with a large glass of juice that dominates the front and one side of the carton. The lettering also changed, with the Tropicana “T” losing its resemblance to a palm tree and adopting a sleeker, cleaner look. A notable feature of the new design was a rounded, orange-colored cap on the spout that created the illusion of squeezing juice when the cap was unscrewed. Overall, the new carton design was a radical departure from what Tropicana consumers were accustomed to.

The swift and terrible response

The response to Tropicana’s rebranded packaging was swift and devastating. Many consumers stopped buying the product altogether. The question arises: What went so horribly wrong? Numerous analyses have been conducted since the infamous flop, and a few key elements have emerged as points of consensus (setting aside the question of whether Tropicana was the best orange juice brand available).

Excessive and unclear changes

According to Branding Journal, one of the main problems was that Tropicana went too far with the changes. The changes were so drastic that consumers no longer recognized the product. Tropicana had positioned itself as a premium brand, and the distinctive orange image and striped straw were part of its recognizable identity. However, the new packaging eliminated both of these elements. In addition, the sideways lettering on the carton made it difficult to read the brand name without tilting one’s head, which proved uncomfortable for consumers browsing supermarket shelves. Many people found the new design unattractive and felt it looked more like a cheap supermarket brand than the premium juice they were used to.

The nature of the product and the image change

Another aspect worth considering is the nature of the product itself and the image shift from an orange to the juice. This change was one of the main innovations in the rebranding project, something that Peter Arnell, the designer, was proud of (as mentioned by Better Marketing). Juice, by its very nature, is abstract and lacks a distinctive look. Showing an image of an orange is more compelling to consumers because the fruit itself is the selling point of the juice, not the other way around. Oddly enough, juice feels abstract, while an orange is solid and concrete. Juice can be made from powder, but an orange can’t. Abstract products are generally harder to sell. In retrospect, it’s clear that Tropicana made the right decision to return to its original packaging.

Bottom line

Tropicana’s ill-fated rebranding attempt serves as a cautionary tale for companies looking to refresh their image. The case of Tropicana, which lost over $50 million, highlights the importance of maintaining brand recognition and avoiding drastic changes that alienate loyal customers. It is essential to carefully consider the impact of any rebranding effort and ensure that it aligns with consumer expectations and preferences. Tropicana’s experience underscores the importance of striking the right balance between innovation and familiarity, as well as the need for clear and effective communication in packaging design. Ultimately, the failed rebranding serves as a reminder that even industry leaders can make costly mistakes, and that thorough market research and consumer testing are critical before implementing major changes.


How much did the Tropicana rebranding attempt cost?

Tropicana paid a whopping $35 million to Arnell Advertising for the ill-fated rebranding project.

Why did Tropicana return to its original packaging?

Tropicana decided to return to its original packaging because the rebranded design was met with a disastrous consumer response, resulting in a significant loss of sales.

What were the key changes in Tropicana’s new branding?

The changes in Tropicana’s new branding included eliminating the iconic orange and straw image, replacing “Pure Premium” with “100% Pure and Natural Orange Juice,” moving the brand name vertically, and adopting a simplified and modernized design.

Why did the rebranding attempt fail so spectacularly?

The rebranding attempt failed due to several factors, including excessive changes that made the product unrecognizable to consumers, difficult-to-read sideways lettering on the packaging, and the perception that the new design resembled a cheap supermarket brand rather than a premium product.

What can companies learn from Tropicana’s experience?

Tropicana’s experience highlights the importance of maintaining brand recognition and carefully considering the impact of rebranding efforts. Companies should strive to strike a balance between innovation and familiarity, conduct thorough market research, and test new designs with consumers before implementing major changes.

How does the failed rebranding underscore the importance of clear communication in packaging design?

The failed Tropicana rebranding highlights the need for clear and effective communication in packaging design. The sideways lettering and lack of familiar elements caused confusion among consumers and made it difficult for them to identify and connect with the brand.

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