It’s a classic design. An artistic icon. Yet even an All-American symbol is no longer sacred. Campbell’s recent announcement that they were to ’revamp’ the distinctive style of their soup cans led the media to wonder is nothing sacred anymore?
It’s a classic design. An artistic icon. Yet even an All-American
symbol is no longer sacred. Campbell’s recent announcement that they
were to ’revamp’ the distinctive style of their soup cans led the media
to wonder is nothing sacred anymore?
Changing a brand image even slightly is never easy at the best of times,
but it is especially risky when sales are sagging. CARMA’s examination
of the media coverage surrounding Campbell’s announcement revealed that
beyond the familiar marketing ploy laid an attempt not only to revive
sales, but also reverse the trends of American eating habits.
To its credit, Campbell took a gentle approach to avoid a consumer
Campbell has retained parts of the visual qualities of the package, as
well as its unique typography. A company spokesman surmised, ’It’s all
about contemporizing our label and making it easier for consumers to
find the soups they want’ (The Wall Street Journal, August 26).
In making the most significant change to its labeling in its 101-year
history, Campbell played down any sense of panic within the company.
Once a staple of the American diet, the soup has been given a ’jazzier’
label with a photograph and a claim that it is ’98% fat free.’ A company
spokeswoman explained, ’The design is much loved and very familiar to
Americans, but we felt there was a wonderful opportunity to update it’
(San Diego Union-Tribune, August 26).
The general consensus of the media, however, said the change is unlikely
to create significant long-term sales growth. Some made reference to the
’New Coke’ debacle as an example of what could go wrong as a result of
re-branding. Much of the coverage seized upon falling sales as the
primary reason for change. Earlier this year, Campbell acknowledged that
a major reorganization was due and as Naomi Ghez of Goldman Sachs &
Company pointed out, ’It will definitely take more than changing a label
to change eating habits’ (The New York Times, August 26).
Several media outlets drew parallels with other product revamps which
have had mixed success and fired a warning to Campbell that eye-catching
packaging is not a sure bet to boost sales. Andrew Lazar, an analyst
with Lehman Brothers, explained, ’Though commendable for now, that well
is going to dry up. Longer term, these companies are going to have to
come out with innovative products’ (Omaha World-Herald, August 29).
More stinging critical coverage called the revamp an act of ’tampering’
and ’dumping a loved icon.’ ’Why change a design which is perfectly good
and which works?’ cried out the Chicago Sun-Times (August 31). Numerous
references in the coverage were made to Andy Warhol - who helped give
the red and white labels iconic status with his silk-screen images - and
how the changes would make him turn in his grave.
For just that reason, the company made only cosmetic changes to its soup
cans. If nothing else, the revamp provides a novel way to shift cans off
to the shelves to collectors. However, as the media pointed out, company
research has shown we all have one or two cans of soup in the
The problem remains that people just aren’t eating it anymore.
Evaluation and analysis by CARMA International. Mediawatch can be found