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We’re not going to take it anymore

This story in yesterday’s New York Times caught my eye:Tropicana Discovers Some Buyers Are Passionate About Packaging
The PepsiCo Americas Beverages division of PepsiCo is bowing to public demand and scrapping the changes made to a flagship product, Tropicana Pure Premium orange juice. Redesigned packaging that was introduced in early January is being discontinued, executives plan to announce on Monday, and the previous version will be brought back in the next month.

There are several highly relevant points in this story:
* people are passionate about what they buy;
* people are passionate about how what they buy is presented to them;
* and when it comes to companies and their advertising agencies telling us what to buy, we just aren’t going to take it anymore.

Facebook learned the same lesson just days earlier. When it’s users realized the full extent of the changes the social networking site made in regard to copyright ownership, a furor was unleashed— ironically using the site itself to scale the outcry (talk about being hoisted on one’s own pittard!). Like PepsiCo’s Tropicana, public pressure caused Facebook to do a very quick and very public about face.

All of this reminds of a quote from Gary Hamel— one of the most published authors in the history of the Harvard Business Review— taken from an interview published in Australia from October 2007:

Organizations are ill prepared for the arrival of a new breed of uncompromising consumer and maverick employee… If organizations do not keep pace, they will cease to exist.

More on the ‘maverick employee’ later. But what Hamel noted in regards to ‘uncompromising consumers— less than 18 months ago— is now becoming a daily occurrence. His warning is dire for those companies and organizations who ‘fail to keep pace.”

Organizations that continue to invest in the top-down marketing ideas of the previous century are— at best— wasting their investment. Riskier still, they are frustrating and alienating their loyal base of customers. Clearly, Tropicana has a strong, loyal customer base. What if PepsiCo had assumed that they and their advertising agencies didn’t know all the answers. What if they had humbly asked those passionate customers what they wanted Tropicana to be? What might PepsiCo have learned?

Let me be clear, I’m certain the new design succeeded when put through the test of countless customer focus groups. Here’s the dirty little secret your advertising agency won’t tell you— focus groups don’t work. They’re easily manipulated, inauthentic and unreliable. Think the new packaging design wasn’t tested in countless focus groups? Think New Coke wasn’t? Think again.

Open sourcing is a powerful alternative. In the hands of experienced, agnostic facilitators, open sourcing drives authentic relationships and provides highly relevant strategic direction to the organizations that employ it. Failing to ‘keep the pace’ has dire consequences. But those companies willing to set the pace have an opportunity to discover powerful new ways to compete.

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