Saturday, February 12, 2011

Doing it right, doing it wrong.

A few months back, Tropicana hired a big agency to completely rework the branding on their Pure Premium orange juice line. What ensued was a branding disaster of textbook proportions. Revenues dropped about 20%(!). In short order, Tropicana pulled the branding and the entire campaign that went with it. Millions of dollars in the tank.

It's easy to take the wrong lesson from this. Should they have 'left well enough alone'? No. The premium orange juice market was in a slump and the brand wasn't the strongest to begin with. Their sales were already weakening and something needed to be done.

No, the real issue was how this rebranding was specifically handled. It's pretty obvious that the agency involved didn't do a lot of research beyond the tiny slice of market that is orange juice sales. Didn't think about the entire experience of going to a grocery store and looking at so many, many other products than just the OJ. Take, for example, all those generic store-brand products whose branding is uniformly similar to the new one for Tropicana Pure Premium. Oops.

Visual marketing - that is, branding and graphic design - never operates in a vacuum. It lives and breathes in a complex ecosystem of products and services, each contributing to the visual grammar and context in which the consumer makes their purchase decision. You might have the most fantastic art possible on your brand, but if it looks like something else common in that context, the consumer is going to assume there's a similarity in quality, price, or value to what they're used to seeing.

Branding your premium product to look like generic products, even of a different type, will kill your brand if the two will be viewed in the same context.

What's around when YOUR customers view your visual marketing? How is that affecting their purchase decision?

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