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Mar 23, 2009 / Richard Hall

CONSUMER POWER

PepsiCo did something extraordinary at the end of last year. At a time when everyone else was erring on the side of caution in the face of an impending financial meltdown, it decided on a radical redesign for all its main US beverage brands simultaneously.

This would have been bold at the best of times. It had the extra appeal of being highly positive when so much other news was negative.

So Pepsi acquired a new smile emblem, Gatorade aimed for the G spot and Tropicana looked beyond its fruit core. Within weeks, however, the company had to promise a return to the old Tropicana design. Consumers had protested. Tropicana had tripped.

The lessons from this are salutary for us all.

  • The most important is that individual consumers remain more powerful than mighty multinationals.
  • Brand managers have to understand and respect the heritage they nurture so briefly.
  • Business managers must weigh their instincts alongside their research and agencies.

Praise, though, should also be given for two aspects of this episode which might otherwise not be fully appreciated.

  • PepsiCo did at least use its imagination in taking a lead.
  • It also responded swiftly to its customers’ concerns.

As a result, Tropicana may emerge stronger rather than weaker.

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