In 2009, Tropicana went through a rebranding that made marketing history – but not in a good way. Want to know how Mindspeller could have saved the company time, trouble and 50 million dollars in three simple steps? Keep reading!

The Challenge

A 50-million dollar rebranding fiasco

In 2009, Tropicana fell victim to one of the biggest rebranding failures in recent marketing history. In just one month, the company lost a whopping $20 million (or 20% of their revenue) in missed sales. Amidst an unrelenting hail of criticism from angry customers on social media, Tropicana decided to revert to the old packaging almost immediately. And four years after the repackaging fiasco, Arnell (the 30-year-old company responsible for the rebrand) shut down.


It is clear today that a series of ill-thought design choices meant that the campaign – which cost Tropicana 35 million dollars – was doomed to fail from the start. But the truth is that the information available to the company at the time was not compelling enough to override their gut feeling that they were doing the right thing.


Things are different now. In fact, Mindspeller could have saved Tropicana their time, trouble, and 50 million dollars with the power of associative relationships, in three simple steps.

The Solution

Step 1 – Highlighting differences in spontaneous associations

Mindspeller’s Competitive Profiler brings to light associations that differentiate any two elements in our network the most. In the screenshot of the Competitive Profiler above, we can see that (among others) the words sweet, delicious, and flavor are more associated with the traditional packaging (on the left) when compared with the new packaging (on the right). On the other hand, when compared with the traditional packaging, the new packaging is more associated with the words carton, cardboard and concentrated. These associations align with the overall perception that the new packaging looks cheap and generic – not at all consistent with Tropicana’s premium reputation.

Step 2 – Checking how much the intended message is evoked at the implicit level

According to Peter Arnell, Tropicana’s new tagline (“Squeeze, it’s a natural”) uses the notions of squeezing and hugs to appeal to the power of love. Funnily enough, the traditional packaging (the green dot on the graph) better evokes most of these words at the implicit level, as our Neuropositioning app shows. The new logo (represented by the purple dot) only wins with squeeze – understandable, as we are talking about a glass of pressed juice.

Step 3 – Seeing what experiences are elicited

Peter Arnell’s explanation for getting rid of the orange with the straw was that “[historically], we always show the outside of the orange. What was fascinating was that we had never shown the product called the juice.” 

This change was probably their worst mistake. Not only was the orange with the straw a familiar staple of the real Tropicana brand (the one people were emotionally attached to), getting rid of it proved that the Arnell Group underestimated how much spontaneous associations can evoke specific experiences.

As Mindspeller’s Explorer app shows, the words orange, fruit, and straw (which represent what is on the traditional packaging), taken together, evoke (among others) the words luscious, juice, healthy, vitamins, and sun. These associations are consistent with the experience that Tropicana wants people to associate with the idea of drinking their juice.

This experience isn’t so clear and consistent when considering the words yellow, liquid, and glass (which represent what is on the new packaging). Taken together, they do evoke the word juice. However, yellow, liquid, and glass also strongly evoke other beverages (some of them alcoholic) (tea, beer, wine), as well as less appealing words like sweat and fluid. And although sand has a nice vacation connotation, it may be somewhat out of place considering Tropicana wants to remain people’s everyday choice.

Today, we saw how spontaneous associations can help validate creative decisions. Curious to see a live demonstration of our tools? All you need to do is book a demo with us.

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