Market Research, Packaging, and the Customer

Posted on April 21, 2009


Great products and brands have significance in our lives.  We know that we can rely on these products; they consistently perform and bring us satisfation and happiness.   Our feelings have grown over time due to the total customer experience derived from the product.  These feelings are a function of both the product and its packaging.  After all, it is difficult to think of situations where we love the product, dislike the packaging, and feel this high degree of total satisfaction.

Recently, one of my all time favorite products changed their packaging.  Tropicana Orange Juice has been a staple in my life for a long period of time.  I know that when I open a carton of Tropicana it will taste fresh, have the right blend of pulp, and be pure.  I have formed a bond with the product.  I also know that when I see the package it will stand out from others on the shelf.  Regardless where I shopped, I knew that I could quickly locate my preferred orange juice. 

This all seemed to change overnight.  The reliable staple I had grown to love became repackaged in a more sterile, impersonal way.  I lost my identification with the product and brand. These feelings are not just attributed to me but to many loyal customers. So, what could have been done?  Simply put…effective marketing research.

Merely going out and obtaining input on package designs may have shed some light; however, what about diving deeper with loyal customers?  Was feedback from the consumer elicited in an objective manner?  Objectivity is key.  An advertising agency designing and/or conducting research where there is a subjective agenda does not work.  Going to loyal customers and getting objective, honest insight does work. 

To date, the apparent misguided efforts have led to poor decisions.  These missteps have been a function of a flawed research design and, in turn, resulted in losses of customer share and revenue. The New York Times says that "loyal" Tropicana customers are up in arms about the new packaging, refrred to it as "ugly," "generic" and claiming that it looks like a store (generic) brand. Others say that the packaging makes it difficult to distinguish between the different varieties of orange juice. A spokesperson indicated that this is the sentiment of a small fraction of vocal dissatisfied customers.  If so, then why has market share fallen?

At the end of the day, customers remain as the ultimate decision makers. While focusing solely on reinventing the brand, Tropicana ignored the total customer experience their customers enjoyed when interacting with the brand.  

I offer an idea for a new Ad campaign, "We listened, recognized our mistake, and have brought back that package you have always loved with that same incredible product."

Do you think it may sell?