The cost of branding
It’s not defined by the price tag.
In 2009, Tropicana—known for its famous pure premium orange juice—rebranded and launched their new packaging to the tune of $35 million. This covered the cost of the rebrand carried out by the now-defunct ad agency, Arnell, as well as packaging design and a campaign with the tagline “Squeeze—it’s a natural” intended to introduce the new identity to the market.
So how much did this cost the PepsiCo-owned company?
The answer is “not $35 million.”
Soon after its launch, the new brand was heavily criticized. Remember, Tropicana was a brand that went unchanged for decades. Customers had an emotional relationship with the brand. Sales dipped, and within a month Tropicana went back to its original design, keeping only the orange shaped lid.
In the meantime, Tropicana had lost $30 million worth of sales.
Although this anecdote has been widely referred to, there is a point here that I think is often overlooked. What does this teach us? There were a lot of shortcomings in the execution of this rebrand, most importantly that the rebrand wasn’t designed with the audience in mind. When you embark on a rebrand of this scale, testing the product within the right context is imperative.
But Tropicana also teaches us something else. The cost of a branding exercise is not defined by its price tag but rather by its return—or lack thereof.
Your brand is the one thing that lives even when your business isn’t running. When your shop is closed, your potential customers are still exposed to your brand. They still talk about it. You can’t erase a memory or an emotional connection overnight. Your brand can also outlive your business, like Polaroid, for example, bankrupt in 2001 and resurrected in 2017. Your brand lives on even through a crisis like a pandemic (sound familiar?).
Let’s take a restaurant as an example.
So while your kitchen may be your biggest investment it is still sitting behind closed doors while your brand touchpoints are still generating equity for your business. This isn’t only true in the case of a crisis, but also while your business is closed for holidays or refurbishing.
Your brand is not just a logo. Your brand is a machine that never sleeps, and it needs to be well-built (and oiled often). When it comes to branding or rebranding, the question that businesses should be asking is not how much this will cost them, but how much it is worth for their business.