As Snapple rolls out a massive overhaul to its trademark Iced Tea, both to the flavors and to the brand, it must be acutely aware of the now infamous “New Coke” debacle of 1985. When Coca-Cola took New Coke off the shelves just three months after it was introduced, then company President Donald R. Keough admitted, “We did not understand the deep emotions of so many of our customers for Coca-Cola.” New Coke may have outperformed both original Coke and Pepsi in taste tests, but for loyal customers changing the recipe was like trampling the American flag. Similarly, the new Snapple may have an all-natural, healthier recipe and sleeker brand identity, but will loyal customers embrace the changes? Snapple’s new line could be headed for the same fate as New Coke if it fails to appease this core audience – especially given the speed with which opinions travel via the Web and social media.
Now don’t get me wrong. There’s nothing wrong with innovation or with updating products. Making something new or seem new often sells very well. Look no further than Pepsi, for example, which is making a big splash with its new image and “refresh everything” campaign – although it steered clear of refreshing the recipe. The potential problem with Snapple is that, just as with New Coke, it seems nearly nothing will be left of the original. It’s a double or nothing gamble: a) successfully tap into a growing, health-conscious consumer niche and grow market share or b) alienate loyal customers and cut the legs out from under the brand. The risk, in this case, would seem greater than the reward.