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Lessons From Tropicana's Fruitless Design
Mar 16, 2009

Jennifer Gidman's excellent report on brandchannel dramatically describes  the dangers of embarking on package redesign carelessly.  This story reminds me of an experience I witnessed at Lipton,  during my Unilever career, when "marketing experts" there too chose to make their mark in branding by changing a package design and giving it a contemporary look.  In that instance, someone chose to remove the image of Sir Thomas Lipton from the face of the tea bag box because he, in their minds he represented  an old, dated brand image.  Mistakenly they confused  age with  heritage and a dated look of an old man for tradition and trust.

Tropicana's experience was similar to that of Lipton's only today's consumer is capable of reacting much more pro-actively, with immediacy, effectiveness and influence.  Basic rules of sound business protocol were broken here:
   - A self serving purpose generally creates a self serving result.
   - Listening to customers and asking their advice always trumps independent action without feedback
   - The most egregious of all marketing mistakes  is "falling in love with your own ideas." 
   -  Ignoring the power of the social media today is tantamount to sailing a boat into an oncoming storm.

The "happy ending" in both stories is the consumer prevailed and won.  Companies lose when they do not  seek feedback. Interestingly the perfect time to solicit customer feedback is during periods of outstanding performance by your product, but not for the reasons you may think.  When what you do is on track, you can probe for feedback  on other aspects of your brand without any distractions from product performance issues.  Great companies use feedback mechanisms that ask for input when your customers are the most satisfied.  This approach takes advantage of your relationship with them when your relationship is at a high point, resulting in commentary about other important aspects of a brand like packaging redesign.  Seeking feedback also conveys your quest for continuous improvement, which registers with customers and gives rise to more open and willing participation by them in what you want to change.  Smart companies "fix the roof" when the sun is shining.

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