Haven’t we been here before? I’ll bet you thought I was going to write about the new administration didn’t you. After all, never in the history of politics (where the more things “change” the more they stay the same) has “change” been more heralded.
Today we are going to talk about Pepsi.
Three of my two favorite beverages, Diet Pepsi, Caffeine Free Diet Pepsi, and Tropicana Pure Premium Orange Juice, have significantly changed their appearance on the grocery store shelf.
I didn’t like it.
I thought I didn’t like it only because it was difficult for both Anne and me to find the bottle on the shelf. Forest : trees, innit. That’s the old-fogey response except I have to think that, if it is more difficult for me to find the product, it is more difficult for every other buyer to find the product on the shelf.
That seems counter productive.
The Hawthorne effect describes how you change your behavior in response to a change in your environment. The name comes from a series of experiments with telephone relay assemblers at the Hawthorne Works, a manufacturer near Chicago, that began in the 1920s.
The Hawthorne experiments had many facets, most of which counted the number of relays each worker finished and dropped in a chute. Over the years the researchers changed pretty much everything that could impact the workers from payroll frequency to break time to the lighting in the test room.
I particularly remember the lighting.
See, the researchers changed the assembly room lighting and productivity went up. After a while, they changed the lighting back and productivity went up. Again.
That experiment told us for the first time that making a change–any change–can alter peoples’ behavior.
Tropicana dropped the long-famous orange-with-a-straw logo in favor of a stemware glass and a squared-off, formal typeface. The carton looks more … generic now.
I doubt that was the intent.
Pepsi-Cola has unveiled a new face several times in the past couple of decades, starting with a logo change that the company thought was “younger looking” than Coke’s antiquated script. The company has since changed the swoops and the design on the bottles a few times leading up to the most recent major color change. Diet Pepsi, which I drink before five in the afternoon, was once in a primarily blue bottle. It is now in a silver bottle that looks brownish in soft light. Caffeine Free Diet Pepsi, which I drink after five that I might sleep at night, was once in a mostly tan bottle. It is now in a white bottle that looks vaguely blueish in soft light.
Those new bottles look so different, they force a rote buyer to search all the product in the soda aisle to find them. That means the rote buyer no longer makes his or her choice automatically but considers all the other products Pepsi sells. I looked for the first time in quite a while at the Max, the Wild Cherries, the Jazz, and even the Caramel. Caramel?
I guess the change worked. The new bottle design means I really did look at every one of the Pepsi bottles on the shelf. Unfortunately, I had also looked at every one of the Canada Dry products, the Schweppes products, and even the Coke products thinking perhaps someone had pulled an unconscionable switch.
Overall, perhaps the change is good. I did relearn about all the different flavors (Caramel?) and it did not drive me to sample the offerings from the competitors. It might just attract the eye of new buyers who very well might try the taste. That is the game: keep your current customers happy with the taste and find new markets with the advertising. And the packaging.
After all that bottle lugging I’m suddenly thirsty.
It is worth noting in the small print that, although both Tropicana and all the Pepsi beverages mentioned are Pepsico units and that I do own Pepsico stock, there was no product placement payment for this column.