The return on investment for design is a difficult number to calculate. How do you quantify the effect that a good design has on the success of a product? It seems like an impossible task to attach dollar amounts to seemingly arbitrary aesthetic decisions. It is. Fortunately, design is not the same thing as “arbitrary aesthetic decisions.” Design (when done well) is an intentional plan that results in a better product. That is something that can be tested and measured. Good design is effective. Bad design has a neutral or negative effect. The recent Tropicana packaging redesign is an amazing example of how bad design resulted in the loss of millions of dollars. If they had done some simple testing of their designs, they could have avoided catastrophe.
If you missed the recent news story about Tropicana’s redesign of their orange juice packaging there is a good summary at AdAge. The redesign was a major failure and was pulled from the shelves when sales for the orange juice plummeted as a direct result of the redesign. It is estimated that Tropicana lost $33 million in sales in less than two months because the packaging was so ineffective. But what is it that made the design so bad?
Look at the packages side-by-side and see if you can see the design mistake that the new package on the right makes. Do you see it? Aesthetically, the new design is modern, professional and attractive. It looks pretty good. So what’s the problem? The mistake the package designers made was that they eliminated the recognizable elements of the design. The result is an unfamiliar design that consumers either didn’t recognize. The equity that their old design had built up over the years was thrown out the window just so they could have a “modern” looking product.
Some analysis of the Tropicana design comes to the wrong conclusion that consumers didn’t like the new design. The AdAge article says that Tropicana “would bow to consumer demand and scrap the new packaging.” The reality is that the consumer didn’t see the new design. They really don’t care about the design of the product, they just want to know that what they are purchasing is the product that meets their expectations. The average grocery shopper doesn’t take time to appreciate the packaging of the items they are buying. They either look for their favorite brand or they shop by price. Tropicana has spent years training consumers to look for the “orange with a straw” graphic and the strong green Tropicana logo. The redesign eliminated both these elements and as a result their product became generic. Since the new packaging didn’t come with a price cut, the now generic product gets passed over by the price conscious shopper. The result is a loss of $33 million!
How could this design mistake have been avoided? The answer is something that you probably don’t associate with design. The answer is research and testing. It is hard to estimate how much it would have cost Tropicana to test the new packaging, but it I am sure it is less than 1% of the revenue Tropicana lost.
The other lesson that you can learn from the Tropicana story has to do with the company responsible for the redesign, the Arnell Group. Take a look at this video of Peter Arnell, the company’s CEO talking about the redesign. He sort of sounds like he knows what he is talking about, but I couldn’t follow his thought process and I am used to hearing the “marketing jargon” that often gets passed as rational explanation. Regardless, he was able to fool Tropicana into believing that his redesign was an improvement over the old packaging. Listening to him speak, however, makes it pretty obvious that there was little or no testing of the new design before the launch. In fact, he says, “Emotionally it was very very difficult, and it still remains difficult for everyone to grasp the importance of that change because it’s so dramatic.” If there had been testing done of the design, it wouldn’t have been so difficult. Research and facts make it very easy to convince people that a design will be effective. He is blaming the consumer and Tropicana decision makers for not being enlightened enough to appreciate the beauty of the new design! Does that sound like the kind of attitude you want to have leading a redesign where millions of dollars are at stake?
In a tough economy, you can’t afford to make costly design mistakes. Design is an investment that can dramatically increase or decrease your profit. As you consider which design company in northern Colorado to invest your money with, Red Rocket Media Group is the only company that can help you measure the ROI of your design investment. Give us a call and let us help you create more effectively designed products.