New Tropicana Packaging, Malcolm Gladwell and Sensation Transference
Two days ago, I noticed a fairly drastic change in the tunnel between the Blue and Red lines, over near State and Jackson. On the way home, I spotted tons of billboard ads up and down both sides of the tunnel.
The weird thing was… that morning? Nothing. All the frames and ads had been magically installed during the day. Given the typical view I have of CTA workers “hanging out,” this struck me as surprisingly efficient.
Another interesting thing to note is that the new Tropicana ads also made their way up. If you hadn’t heard, the new ads feature the new Tropicana logo and packaging design, which triggered a great deal of customer backlash and complaints.
Personally, I kind of like the newer design. It feels more modern, cleaner in a way. Looking at all the white space and comparing the new packaging to the old… I’m surprised how much they pared back (on at least two sides of the carton).
But in looking at the two, I can’t help but think of Malcolm Gladwell’s story about how a packaging change to 7-Up also had a similar affect on customers. In his book, Blink, Gladwell talks about a concept called sensation transference:
Cheskin was convinced that when people give an assessment of something they might buy in a supermarket or a department store, without realizing it, they transfer sensations or impressions that they have about the packaging of the product to the product itself.
To put it another way, Cheskin believed that most of us don’t make a distinction — on an un-conscious level — between the package and the product. The product is the package and the product combined.
For true fans of Tropicana, the change then wasn’t simply a design or packaging change – it comes across as an actual change to the product itself. Though the official Tropicana site emphasizes that “It’s a new look and a new energy, but when it comes to the juice, it’s just the way you like it.”
Though the actual juice itself remains unchanged, the general feedback from the public seems feel otherwise. Mess with the brand, mess with the product.
Here’s the great 7-Up parallel from Gladwell’s book:
“We tested Seven-Up. We had several versions, and what we found is that if you add fifteen percent more yellow to the green on the package — if you take this green and add more yellow — what people report is that the taste experience has a lot more lime or lemon flavor. And people were upset. ‘You are changing my Seven-Up! Don’t do a ‘New Coke’ on me.’
It’s exactly the same product, but a different set of sensations have been transferred from the bottle, which in this case isn’t necessarily a good thing.”
I don’t know that images (above) accurately reflect the exact colors of the two packages. But to my eyes, the newer Tropicana design looks a little more yellow, while the older one seems a little more orange. Here are a few other comparison points: check out this Flickr image, as well as the official Tropicana site.
To me, my initial reaction is that the newer design seems a little more on the “sour” side, compared to the original. The orange-ness of the original seems sweeter to me, looking at both side by side.
Given the concept of sensation transference, I can absolutely see why people would prefer the original – based sheerly on color alone. Who knows though, maybe it’s just that folks resist change in general….
But the Gladwell/Cheskin theory is just more fun, IMO.
I’m a big fan of Malcolm Gladwell, and really enjoyed both Blink and The Tipping Point. I really like his approach to topics, and how he brings readers in to his particular (and unique) point of view. After reading it, I was seriously tempted to buy a copy for every manager I knew. Seriously.
Somewhat tangentially related – I first learned of Malcolm Gladwell thanks to Justin, who invited me and Chris out to a talk at Maxim’s. More four years after that time, Liz and I will be hosting our wedding reception at Maxim’s.