Meet the new juice, same as the old juice

February 24, 2009

PepsiCo, it its unrelenting desire to maintain parity with the Coca Cola Company, has managed to create its own “New Coke” debacle. Their mis-step, however, had nothing to do with the taste of a product, but with its appearance. I’m talking about Tropicana orange juice.

We are all familiar with the Tropicana logo: the orange with the straw sticking out of it. It was the perfect icon for the carton’s contents: fresh orange juice. As the product line expanded  – no pulp, some pulp, lots o’ pulp – a brightly colored banner was added to the top of the carton. You didn’t even need to read to get the right juice, just grab the box with the orange/straw and the red (or blue, or green) banner.

Someone at Pepsi, probably the same person who redesigned the soda cans to make them identically confusing, decided to apply the same redesign – and I mean the same, down to the typography – to Tropicana juice, with predictable results:

Genericana

At first glance, this display could be Wal-Mart brand juice. The iconic logo is gone. The bold, green Tropicana typography is gone, replaced by generic sans-serif blandosity. The level of pulpiness is now indicated by the shading of the juice in the glass, forcing you to learn a new – and much less distinguishable – color/pulp rating. The only good thing about this design is the cap, which is now shaped and textured like an orange half.

This week PepsiCo acknowledged their mistake. They will be returning to the old Topicana design program. If they’re smart, they’ll retain the new cap, but smart hasn’t been one of their operating principles as of late.

Thus endeth the rant. Never forget: design sells.

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