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Same Old Vs Brand New? How to rebrand in the Food & Drink sector

Read before re-branding - Drayton Partners’ Ian Pickett, a Food Industry specialist, outlines some classic mistakes to avoid when re-positioning a much-loved brand in this notoriously competitive sector

To rebrand, or not to rebrand? In the Food & Drink Sector this has always been a particularly challenging question. Get it right and a tiring brand can suddenly be given an injection of new life and relevance. But get it wrong and…

One well-known example of hoping for the best but incurring the worst is the case of PepsiCo’s Tropicana. The iconic North American brand – New York City’s go-to for OJ, a TV advertising campaign once claimed – decided, some years ago, that its packaging was in need of a major refresh.

After much expensive research and many and various creative iterations Tropicana decided to adopt a bold new look.

Out went its old style packaging – featuring a picture of a seemingly fresh-off-the-tree fruit. In came a trendy shot of the juice already poured. Visual ideation based on the usage occasion - to use the kind of mysterious marketing parlance that, in my opinion, sometimes clouds company decision-making.

All PepsiCo were trying to do was bring the brand into the 21st century and make it more relevant to a new generation of consumers. They then invested 35 million dollars in an advertising campaign which promoted the new packaging. Unfortunately for them they had fallen straight into a common rebranding trap – in trying to appease millennials they alienated the product’s core consumers.

The backlash was immediate. Tropicana became one of the first brands to fall foul of the aggressively opinionated new social media platforms, such as Twitter and Facebook. As The New York Times reported at the time

“…some of those commenting described the new packaging as ugly.”

But you don’t get to become 100-billion-dollar-plus marketing-led company for nothing. PepsiCo were admirably quick to react.

“We underestimated the deep emotional bond they had with the original packaging…that wasn’t something that came out in the research. Those consumers are very important to us, so we responded.” explained the President of Tropicana North America.

Only weeks later Tropicana announced that it would return to its original design – within a few months the old packaging was back for good, on all supermarket shelves. A salutary lesson in the age-old epithet about customers being kings. So what about getting a rebrand absolutely right? A good recent example is the casual-dining restaurant chain Giraffe.

The brand recently briefed London design consultancy, Ragged Edge, to attract a new target audience of “experience-hungry millennials” says the consultancy’s co-founder Max Ottignon, while also ensuring that it remains relevant to its “loyal customer base of families.”

The restaurant has been renamed as Giraffe World Kitchen to make it feel more “grown up”, Ottignon adds, and a new brand positioning and identity has been developed based around the concept of “Taste a Whole New World.” A smart decision which reflects the global nature of its food menu.

Giraffe have obviously understood the key lesson in getting the process right: put the customer at the heart of your rebranding process. They now clearly signal a truly global gastronomic experience to those “experience-hungry” and, in many cases, well-travelled millennials.

“We went back to the intention of the founders, who started Giraffe with the idea of travelling the world and bringing back their favourite dishes,” says Ottignon.

To rebrand, or not to rebrand? Well, like in life in general, procrastination is rarely the answer. The, ever so obvious, easy recommendation is to get the consumer’s input first. Ensuring you have asked the exactly the right question to the right section of your target market is the hard part.