Monday, March 30, 2009

Twitter as the Ultimate Focus Group

Imagine if you will, a gallon of Tropicana orange juice.

Now...what did you imagine? A ripe orange with droplets of water? And a straw?

Most likely is my guess.

As you may know, in January of this year, Tropicana had its run in with the scenario Coke faced back in the '80s when it lauched "New Coke." Coke changed the class recipe and the public was outraged. The new campaign was a major flop, and Coke reverted back to its original recipe - Coke Classic. In this case, with Tropicana, owner PepsiCo rebranded the OJ with new packaging. However, immediately following was a clammoring of consumer distress, sending emails such as “Do any of these package-design people actually shop for orange juice?” the writer of one e-mail message asked rhetorically. “Because I do, and the new cartons stink.” Others described the new packaging as “ugly” or “stupid,” and resembling “a generic bargain brand” or a “store brand.”

When the company originally conducted a focus group to predict the success of the new launch, apparently the group lacked one major critical component for establishing a true reading on the liklihood of success: “what we didn’t get was the passion this very loyal small group of consumers have. That wasn’t something that came out in the research” Neil Campbell, president at Tropicana North America in Chicago, part of PepsiCo Americas Beverages.

Now, here's how Twitter comes in. As I mentioned in an earlier Twitter blog post, one of the best aspects of Twitter is that followers self-select to follow your stream of thoughts. Hence, at least on some marginal level, they care. When a company like PepsiCo rebranded its OJ, there was an outcry. It didn't take into consideration its best customers, and hence, blew it. If instead, PepsiCo had first gauged customer feedback through Twitter, it would have probably learned of this missed mark far earlier in the lifecycle.

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