Redesign Fail! Tropicana capitulates

Posted by Rob Walker on February 23, 2009
Posted Under: Backlashing,The Designed Life

If you follow the design world at all you know doubt know that Tropicana’s redesign was, um, controversial. There are always those who will argue that controversy is just another form of buzz, and long-term good for a brand. Apparently, Tropicana owner Pepsi doesn’t see it that way in this case:

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.

Wow. I really can’t think of another example of such a retreat (in the context of a high profile package redesign, I mean). Earlier I liked to this Brandweek bit that says “The new packaging has 20 design trademarks and copyrights. It took 30 people five months to develop it.”

Probably this story will largely be positioned as an example of the enhanced power of consumers to complain — the NYT story is full of the usual email-and-Facebook exaples, etc. And maybe that’s partly true.

I also think, however, that this was a particularly egregiously unneeded and badly executed redesign. I say that, basically, as a shopper: Here at Murketing HQ we had several discussions about how weak and generic the new look was — and while we did not bother to write the company or join any Facebook groups to express our displeasure, it did actually cause us to start trying different OJ brands.

Now, Murketing HQ is kind of a weird place, and not representative of normal consumer (or even human) behavior. But still.

My personal take is that as a redesign, this one was emblematic of the worst tendencies of some designers to want to change everything, and for no good reason — to undervalue the power of the familiar. I can just hear the discussion about how the orange-with-a-straw-in-it symbol was corny and “dated,” and that that the excellent Tropicana logo letterforms were stale and should be scrapped and made “contemporary.” The result, inevitably, was a look that I suppose is very “now,” but in the worst way: It looks like everything else. Just my two cents.

Trivia: The design firm on this was Arnell, which came up in a December 9, 2007 Consumed about the (much-hyped in the design world) Home Hero fire extinguisher. Is that still around?

Further diversion may be found at MKTG Tumblr, and the Consumed Facebook page.

Reader Comments

Arnell has a wondergul history of great design work but this one is just a fiasco of bad mojo. When will it end?

Written By Gitamba on February 23rd, 2009 @ 3:09 pm

Since the redesign, I had trouble finding it in the grocery store recently. That’s definitely not good for them

Written By Jenion Tyson on March 4th, 2009 @ 8:55 am


  1. Tropicana Old Is New « AFTERNOW  on February 26th, 2009 @ 10:21 am
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