Emotive forces shape the gestalt of the brand identity
April 6, 2022 12:45 PM   Subscribe

'Breathtaking' is one word for purported Arnell Pepsi doc (Breathtaking Strategy by Arnell Group, PDF). "When I did the Pepsi logo, I told Pepsi that I wanted to go to Asia, to China and Japan, for a month and tuck myself away and just design it and study it and create it," Mr. Arnell said earlier to Ad Age. "There was a lot of research, a lot of consumer data points ... and dialogue that I had with the folks at Pepsi, consumers and retailers. We knew what we were doing." The Crazy Genius of Peter Arnell "Two former business associates, who requested anonymity to avoid damaging their relationship with Arnell, say Arnell carried a handgun in an ankle holster. (Arnell acknowledges only having a gun permit and says stories of him carrying it at work are "inaccurate.")" Bonus 2000s references that dated horribly! "Arnell has been compared to movie mogul Harvey Weinstein, meaning you could fill a book with horror stories about his cruel behavior—screaming at people, even hitting them. "He has this remarkable capacity to be both the most intoxicating character—lovable, brilliant, seductively intellectual—and then turn on a dime and be staggeringly cruel."

Surprisingly, Peter Arnell was not destroyed by his associations with Weinstein, Madoff, his inappropriate office behavior of sitting workers based on their hierarchy or any of his other eccentricities: "Peter Arnell heaped abuse on employees for years, and Omnicom—the company that had purchased his entrepreneurial branding firm, the Arnell Group and trusted him to lead it—turned a blind eye. It was only when Arnell began to take embarrassing and costly advertising missteps that Omnicom “suddenly” woke up. What sunk this infamously nasty CEO? It wasn’t his violent outbursts within the office or even the lawsuit filed against him by four former female employees—it was orange juice."

Mark Lipton's The Irony of Accountability: It’s About the Money, Not the Meanness, "Peter Arnell heaped abuse on employees for years, and Omnicom—the company that had purchased his entrepreneurial branding firm, the Arnell Group and trusted him to lead it—turned a blind eye. It was only when Arnell began to take embarrassing and costly advertising missteps that Omnicom “suddenly” woke up. What sunk this infamously nasty CEO? It wasn’t his violent outbursts within the office or even the lawsuit filed against him by four former female employees—it was orange juice.

When the Arnell Group won the PepsiCo contract to design new logos for both Pepsi and Tropicana, the design for the former drew mixed reactions, but the design for the latter caused thousands of Americans to practically lose their breakfast. Customers complained that the new labeling was so different they couldn’t find Tropicana on the shelf. ...

Most people in Arnell’s position would have hidden in shame and embarrassment or offered an apology to the American public, but as is typical of narcissistic mean men, Arnell responded to critics by saying: “What the hell—I got paid a lot of money.”
posted by geoff. (24 comments total) 11 users marked this as a favorite
 
"Breathtaking" ...sometimes you say a thing like that just to be nice.
posted by rhizome at 1:13 PM on April 6 [3 favorites]




I wrote a bit about the Arnell Pepsi document in my latest book. It's wild. Some but not all of that section is excerpted in this Slate piece about golden ratio mysticism.
posted by escabeche at 1:22 PM on April 6 [2 favorites]


By page 21 the PDF is comparing the Pepsi logo to Earth's magnetic fields, complete with little globes for reference. I don't know what combination of drugs would be required to produce this document but I'm quite sure it's coming from an altered state of consciousness.

I'm becoming alarmed that geoff doesn't seem to be running out of interesting posts he can make about Pepsi.
posted by justsomebodythatyouusedtoknow at 1:22 PM on April 6 [7 favorites]




I am so grateful to Eyebrows McGee for the one statement that continues to speak to all of my feelings when I hear about these awful, awful people:

SQUISHY SQUISHY LITTLE BLUEBERRY.
posted by Silvery Fish at 1:30 PM on April 6 [3 favorites]


I suspect that the document pushing the new Pepsi logo was written after the logo was redesigned. It seems like a bunch of absurd, bullshit justifications for changing the logo, created more to amuse the writers than for any expectation it would be read by stakeholders instead of simply glossed over. Soda marketing is honestly a joke of a job. People have their brand loyalties, and you either do what Coke does and just make slight iterations of the same product design for the last forty-plus years ('cause we know how New Coke did), or you just throw shit at the wall and see what sticks in the hopes of juicing the numbers a percentage point for the current quarter.

Also, honestly, I liked the Tropicana rebranding. I think it looked great. That it bombed is honestly a bit of a surprise, but hey, I'm not a designer or a branding expert.
posted by SansPoint at 1:32 PM on April 6 [1 favorite]


The Tropicana design reminds me of the beer in Repo Man where the cans just say BEER.
posted by sjswitzer at 1:34 PM on April 6 [4 favorites]


The Tropicana redesign itself.

Seems pretty obvious the biggest issue was rotating the word Tropicana so that it was hard to read. If the rest of the carton had been pretty similar you’d figure it out with context clues. But if you change the appearance *and* hide the name, is it any surprise you can’t find it?
posted by leotrotsky at 1:37 PM on April 6 [1 favorite]


The Tropicana design reminds me of the beer in Repo Man where the cans just say BEER.

Those were a thing. There was a weird part of the 80s when all kinds of products went with the “un-brand” thing and yes, the unbrand aisle in stores that carried them had a Wristcutters-movie level of bleakness.
posted by Silvery Fish at 1:40 PM on April 6 [6 favorites]


I told Pepsi that I wanted to go to Asia, to China and Japan, for a month

yeah I bet you did! He sounds like the J.Peterman (Seinfeld, not actual ) of branding, but vastly more abusive.
posted by Jon Mitchell at 1:40 PM on April 6 [1 favorite]


I used to work in advertising and for some of these companies, but I think a bigger issue was that there was a major shift in the industry from the traditional Mad Men eccentric creative to digital advertising. I know many old "mad dogs" (yes they called themselves that), that looked down upon us digital nerds building social campaigns, websites, targeted advertising, etc. You simply cannot launch a redesign without controlling the narrative across all channels. I find the AdAge and other branding articles as to why it failed as too simple. Consumers can get used to new brands, look at how diet soda is being replaced by "zero sugar" replete with new branding, almost to the extent where it is eating into the non-diet/zero product lines. What Arnell failed to realize was that a consumer's experience now is truly omnichannel and you can't just throw an ad in Time magazine or buy a couple spots during SNL. The days of easy marketing money are over.

The second part I think that this fails to capture is how hard branding and advertising is. You're selling to two people: the client and the consumer. Do you now how old it is to get a room full of executives at a staid company like PepsiCo or Ford to think creatively? Arnell was very good at this even if he was an asshole or his methodologies went to the extreme. I've done similar branding exercises that involve mood boards and other yogababble because it is often hard to get someone who is very good at operational strategy or finance or M&A to think creatively. Elon Musk and Steve Jobs are very good at this and while you might not like them and while it is cliche they "think different," contrast that with basically any phone that came out of Microsoft. It looks like a bunch of boomer dads sat in a room and decided what should go in a phone. Jobs aggressively changed what it meant to have a phone and didn't create a chimera of "what if they don't like a touchscreen, let's add a keypad too, oh and then let's cross brand with MTV!"

So yeah Arnell is the extreme and it is silly but there's a reason for documents like these. Also note that around the time of the Tropicana redesign Simply. owned by Coca-Cola, also began advertising heavily. Simply Orange capitalized heavily on giving a pure, organic image at the right time (despite it being so not orange juice it can't even call itself orange juice). Tropicana should have kept the redesign, push hard into the health category and run a negative ad campaign. Instead they settled for just new merchandising. I have a feeling if they kept the redesign the dip would have rebound and we'd be telling a different story.
posted by geoff. at 1:53 PM on April 6 [6 favorites]


Four words: Never. Change. Your. Logo
posted by Liquidwolf at 1:59 PM on April 6 [1 favorite]


I wrote a bit about the Arnell Pepsi document in my latest book. It's wild. Some but not all of that section is excerpted in this Slate piece about golden ratio mysticism.

Super cool! I can't wrap my head around this stuff, generally, as my mind is warped, but this was as close to being wrapped as my warped mind's gotten.
posted by BlunderingArtist at 2:00 PM on April 6


To my UK eyes, the Tropicana rebrand looks too like the kind of thing a mid-range supermarket own-brand would have. The orange-shaped cap is a nice flourish but who looks at the cap until you're opening the carton?
posted by Hogshead at 2:58 PM on April 6


Thank you to Heywood Mogroot III for posting that link. I saw that Fat Man alteration shortly after the new logo came out and I still to this day can't help but think of it every time I see that red and blue ball.

It's like when I told my wife that the Walmart logo looks like Kurt Vonnegut's illustration of an asshole. She couldn't unsee it.
posted by AlonzoMosleyFBI at 3:00 PM on April 6 [5 favorites]


So yeah Arnell is the extreme and it is silly but there's a reason for documents like these.

Yeah, the reason is actually stunningly simple. Too many powerful executives who you can't kick out of the room who hamstring every large, complex initiative either due to some perpetual turf war, or the business equivalent of engineer syndrome, believing that because they've been told they're good at one thing that they're going to be good at everything.

Arnell and everyone else who comes up with stupid shit like "Pepsi Galaxy" are just feeding these overpaid jerks' bullshit back to them and charging them a mint for it. He's clearly an abusive asshole who needs to be far away from anyone he has any power over, but Pepsi -- and everyone else who spends millions on similar hogwash -- deserved to get fleeced by a smarmy marketing-bro.
posted by tclark at 3:01 PM on April 6 [3 favorites]


I've done similar branding exercises that involve mood boards and other yogababble because it is often hard to get someone who is very good at operational strategy or finance or M&A to think creatively.

My previous comment was a long way to say corporations just need to learn to keep these people out of the room.
posted by tclark at 3:09 PM on April 6 [1 favorite]


If you are into brand design and marketing in general, you might enjoy the Terry O'Reilly podcast series Under the Influence (I'm pretty sure O'Reilly was involved in the Fiberglas Pink campaign when he was active in advertising). Here is an episode on The Art of the Movie Poster
posted by elkevelvet at 3:12 PM on April 6


I have never bought Tropicana orange juice, and I’m inclined to say I’ve never even seen it except in commercials.

But when I look at the original design, I have the illusion that I’m looking through the surface of the carton into a little world where a bunch of wholesome and cute orange juice related things are happening, whereas the new design gives me a feeling of a production line in a factory where the cartons are marching out in formation like automatons.
posted by jamjam at 3:22 PM on April 6 [1 favorite]


I like how the madness built up in the pdf. It grew into the Pepsi Ratio. Then Pepsi Nation. Pepsi World- Pepsi Universe!
I was expecting the last slide to read nothing but "BWAHAHAHAHAHAHAH!"
posted by doctornemo at 6:12 PM on April 6


Marketing are the worst. They produce nothing, but need to generate the impression they’re doing things. Hence, churn the logo! Note that this is the same reason managers claim that rearranging org charts is progress. As you can tell, I was never much of a “company man.”
posted by Gilgamesh's Chauffeur at 6:28 PM on April 6 [1 favorite]


Someone I’m very close with had a one on one meeting with peter in his office. After about an hour, Peter slid his chair back from his desk and a teary-eyed women got out from under his desk and quickly exited.
posted by pmaxwell at 6:52 PM on April 6 [3 favorites]


Yikes
posted by Windopaene at 8:57 PM on April 6 [2 favorites]


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