Tango’s tailspin shows extension is not the answer

This month saw fizzy fruit drink Tango kill the latest in a long line of "dwarf" extensions when it put a bullet in the head of Tango Clear. This follows previous flops Tango Still (launched 1995, axed 1998) and Tango Strange Soda (launched 2002, dropped in 2004). All this flurry of extensions has failed to stop the long-term decline of the brand which has suffered 5 years of declining sales. Its a sorry tale of what happens when you forget what made you famous and neglect your core.

Back in the 1990’s Tango outsold Coke’s fruit drink Fanta by a whopping two to one. The brand had a clear positioning, "the hit of the real fruit", based on a differentiated product. It stood out with highly impactful and differentiated black packaging. And it had one of the best ever examples of a communication campaign combining sausage (function) and sizzle (emotion), with the endline "You know when you’ve been Tango’d". I’ve used the ad with the orange man many times to try and show how to tell a product story in an entertaining way. Click on the image below to watch it, or see it here:

Things started to go wrong around the mid 90’s, when a double whammy blow was dealt to the brand. The first blow was self-inflicted. The brand team forgot what made them famous, which was the hit of the fruit, especially orange. They created a series of different flavours that distracted attention from the core orange flavour. But to really make things worse, they tried to give each of these flavours its own personality. Several of these even got their own increasingly wacky ad campaigns like this one for Apple, and another for blackcurrant that walked away from the "You’ve been Tango’d" idea.

At the same time Tango took its eye off the orange ball, Coke decided to up the support for Fanta. They focused single-mindedly on Fanta orange, and started to use the distribution muscle they had. And they quickly started to catch up with Tango and then over-take it. Fanta is now by far the dominant carbonated fruit drink in the UK.

Rather than going back to what made the Tango
brand famous and working on the core of the brand, the series of
extension attempts were then used. But, as failure of all of these
shows, you can’t extend your way out of trouble. Especially when these
extensions don’t work to reinforce the core brand idea, but rather
dilute it. Tango Strange Soda was a wierd mix of juice and milk. And Tango
Clear? A brand famous for a black pack and having a big fruit hit
trying to compete with Volvic’s fruit flavoured water?


A few years ago the brand finally went back to the "You’ve been Tango’d" idea, but it was too late to save the brand, which continued to decline. And now in 2007, the brand has ditched the last thing which made it different and stand out which was the black packaging. So gone is the brand’s edgy personality as well, that made it the bad-boy versus the goody-goody Fanta. The brand is being re-positioned based on containing only natural colours and flavours, which whilst a good idea will not be enough to get the brand growing again.

In fact, perhaps Tango is one of those brands that sadly should just be left to die.