Is Tropicana toothpaste a bonkers brand extension?

Yes, you read right. Tropicana have stretched their brand from juices into, well, toothpaste. Crazy as it may seem, this is a real product launch and not an April Fool’s joke! In this post I try to make some sense out of what seems, on paper at least, to be a prime candidate for the over-crowded brand extension graveyard, along with Colgate Ready Meals, Axe/Lynx shavers and a whole host of failed Virgin products (jeans, vodka, cola etc).

1.Brand stretch assessment 

First of all, I tried to make sense of Tropicana toothpaste using the brand stretch assessor tool we use on the brandgym Academy short course we run on brand stretch and on projects. I used it to assess the Sky Glass TV launch in this recent post.

Size of prize: this is based on the market opportunity, the added value of the concept and the product delivery

  • Toothpaste is a big and steadily growing market: $18.5 billion in 2019 with a forecast CAGR of 3.7% from 2021 to 2027 (1).
  • The concept does address the problem of toothpaste making your orange juice taste bitter. 78% of people agree this is a potential issue according to Tropicana research (2). The  after-taste is caused by sodium lauryl sulfate (SLS) a cleaning agent common in toothpaste, but not used by Tropicana. However, I’m not sure how big an issue this really is. Don’t a lot of people brush their teeth after breakfast, not before? And anyway, if this is a real issue, a quick Google search shows that leading brand Sensodyne toothpaste is free of SLS.
  • Competitive intensity is high, with leading brands like Colgate spending heavily.
  • I can’t judge the product, having not tried it. But Tropicana are clearly not oral care experts, out-sourcing all product design and manufacturing. Net, I have low confidence that the product will be great.
  • SIZE OF PRIZE: small  

Ability to win: this is where many bold brand extension attempts fall down. Even if the size of prize is attractive, do you have the capabilities to really deliver it and create a profitable, sustainable revenue stream?

  • As mentioned, Tropicana has no capabilities in oral care and manufacturing is outsourced to an own label producer of cosmetics and toiletries.
  • This is limited opportunity for scale economies and cost advantage, unless Pepsico is planning a range of toothpaste for its other drinks brands.
  • It is unlikely that Tropicana will invest heavily in marketing to launch the product and then sustain it in market.
  • ABILITY TO WIN: zero!  

So, as strategic stretch, this Tropicana brand extension looks like a dumb idea.

But on reflection, I realised that this is of course not a serious strategic move at all. 

2.Not a brand extension at all

Tropicana toothpaste is, I suggest, not a bonkers brand extension. Rather, it is what I’m calling a LET-OFF: a Limited Edition Tactical OFFer. The product wasn’t launched in major retail outlets. Instead, it was announced on the brand’s Instagram page. A teaser on October 22nd introduced the idea and encouraged people to check back on the launch day, November 1st. The social posts used the trendy jargon of a “drop”, a term used for the release of cool new sneakers or new songs.

To get a tube of Tropicana toothpaste, you had to then leave a comment mentioned what Tropicana brightened your day. And of course, you had to use a hashtag: #sweeptake in this case.

But what’s the point of this, I asked myself? And how to evaluate its effectiveness?

I suggest three key criteria for LET-OFFs:

  1. REACH: how effective is the idea at creating “buzz” and social sharing to drive brand reach and in turn penetration, key to brand growth? (Score out of 4)
  2. REINFORCEMENT: how effective is the idea at reinforcing the brand’s core benefit? (Score out of 4)
  3. REJUVENATION: how effective is the idea at rejuvenating the brand by bringing freshness and popular cultural “currency” (Score out of 2)

TOTAL SCORE out of 10

3. Evaluating Tropicana Toothpaste as a LET-OFF

So, how does Tropicana toothpaste stack up using the criteria above, rather than as a true brand extension?

REACH: judging by Tropicana’s instagram feed, the reach was quite limited. The number of views for video posts and likes for written posts are shown below. Over 11,000 video views is not bad, but minute in terms of reach of the US population.

My score: 1 out of 4

REINFORCEMENT: this is where this LET-OFF falls down in my book. The product itself does nothing to reinforce Tropicana’s core benefits of freshness and taste. People did leave comments about how Tropicana brightens their day, in order to get the product. But these comments were limited in number as mentioned above. There are also some amusing comments from people who clearly misunderstood the concept, with one saying “I am interested to see how orange juice toothpaste tastes.”

My score: 1 out of 4

REJUVENATION: I guess it does make Tropicana look like brand doing fun and wacky ideas. That said, the tonality of the Instagram posts (below right) looks out of sync with the brand’s overall imagery (below left).

My score: 1 out of 2

MY TOTAL SCORE: 3 out of 10

4. Return on Talent (ROT)

Based on the above, Tropicana Toothpaste will have limited impact on brand and business growth. Although I am open to being proved wrong if someone from the Tropicana marketing team or creative agency wants to share some data showing otherwise.

But on the other hand, not much marketing money was spent, apart from making a few hundred tubes of toothpaste. And the brand got a bit of buzz. So, what’s not to like?

The issue with LET-OFFs is less to do with return on investment (ROI). Instead, the question is more to do with return on TALENT (ROT). “We worked closely with our partner Dynamic Blending Specialists, from the initial concept to product development and production,” a Tropicana spokesperson explained in a recent article (2). This means a fair amount of time has been taken up with this marketing stunt. And, if you agree with the evaluation above, the return is likely to be limited.

Net, full marks to the Tropicana team for creativity and having fun at work. However, I would recommend that a LET-OFF should work harder at driving reach, reinforcement and rejuvenation. In a future post we will look at other example of LET-OFFs that do just that.

You can explore brand stretch further in our brandgym Academy short course here. This short course is only £95+VAT, refundable if you on to do the full Mastering Brand Growth program.

Sources:

  1. Toothpaste market
  2. Tropicana team

For more examples from the brand extension graveyard, see this earlier post