A Closer Look at Tropicana’s Brand Fail

In a recent post, we explored two major rebrands gone wrong. (It can happen to even the biggest companies.) In this post, we’ll examine what happened with one of these campaigns. It all began when Peter Arnell, the controversial adman of the creative agency Arnell Group, was hired to redesign the packaging for Tropicana’s Pure Premium orange juice.

On January 8, 2009, the new packaging and accompanying ad campaign was announced, for which Tropicana had paid Arnell $35M. Unfortunately, the new package design was immediately and flatly rejected by both customers and brand critics alike—costing Tropicana an additional $33M in lost sales revenue and breeding ill will across the internet.

The Explanation

Shortly after the launch (and subsequent failure in the market), Peter Arnell attempted to explain the redesign at a press conference:

“Historically, we always show the outside of the orange. What was fascinating was that we had never shown the product called the juice. […] Having said that we wanted to take the orange and put it somewhere. We engineered this interesting little squeeze cap here … so that the notion of squeezing the orange was implied ergonomically.”

Arnell’s explanation for his design choices is reminiscent of a design student attempting to impress his professor with copious hidden meanings and clever gimmicks. His justification for the departure from the beloved orange and straw image was more about semantics than about understanding what made Tropicana an industry leader.

Rebrand or New Brand?

Arnell failed to grasp the implications of removing the orange, which had symbolized the purity of the brand’s product for generations. The new logo, rotated to read vertically rather than horizontally, represented yet another departure that left the Tropicana name unrecognizable to customers at first glance. Abandoning all hallmarks of the previous, time-tested brand identity turned this “rebrand” into the launch of an entirely new brand—one with none of the equity or awareness Tropicana had worked hard to amass over the years.

If It Ain’t Broke…

So, what’s the real lesson here? Tropicana’s Pure Premium orange juice went from being a best-seller in North America to losing market share to competitors over a package design misstep. The company took one of its most successful products and stripped away everything that was working in order to “evolve” the brand for no good reason. Let this be the lesson to all successful brands: “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it!”

About Kara Franco
Kara writes copy that speaks. She has a knack for creating clear, compelling messages without wasting words. She is passionate about digital marketing and believes that copy is the cornerstone of user experience.

Copywriter + Content Strategist