The Frooti Revolution

For numbers of Frooti lovers growing up with the drink, the new packet is anathema. “Mango Frooti, fresh and juicy” reminds us all of summer vacations when thirst was quenched with a luscious mango drink. Frooti was the very first to be introduced as a convenient tetra pack in India.  Today, the market is overwhelmed with tetra pack flavors by competing brands, Real and otherwise. The memory quotient of nostalgia is hardly the deciding factor for a brand in making the case with the Indian youth, the major consumers of soft drinks.

image courtesy:Sagmeister and Walsh 

At Lopez Design, when our group talked about the new Frooti packaging, there were many initial reactions of revulsion and disbelief. Graphic designer at LD, Ashish Rehani, of the younger tribe, says, “That made me go back and think that there are two ways to look at it. I realized we had to stop thinking about it as designers. The consumer is the target. It is a good, bold move.” Rehani saw the Frooti tetra-packs stacked in fridges and they jumped out at him. “The designers would have looked at how best to attract the target audience. When we look at something subjectively we forget that the target audience is not of the same view.” Ashish remembers when the I-pad came out, there were several features not included like HDMI and a memory card and reviewers were critical. “For them, it fell short of a laptop. Small features that an Android could provide were “missing”. But the i-pad was made for someone standing in the kitchen or for casual surfing and to play games. It was not meant to be a laptop at all. For the target audience aimed at, it was a perfect product. It delivered what it was supposed to.” Technical bloggers, designers and reviewers were not able to see this advantage. Did Pentagram, in designing the Frooti packaging, realizing the kind of competition the brand is facing, take an about turn to find a new way to position this fruity drink? 

“It is forward thinking, it is fresh and youthful”, says Ashish. The new Frooti packaging is clearly aimed at the section of Indian youth, a dominant category – one in three persons – and the primary consumers of soft drinks. By 2020, India is set to be the youngest nation with 64% in the working class category. Which brings us to what attracts the youth. Without question, the Frooti packaging looks like contraband. It has danger signals written all over it and screams, “Do not touch”. It steers away from any fanciful fruit impressions. In fact, it is a reminder how many youngsters, however far from Cuba, love the image of Che Guevera, a revolutionary both revered and reviled. Ashish corroborates, “Youth are always looking for a change in everything. There is this element of anti-vibe in youth and the rebel shows up. In fact, there is always a clash between the right and wrong and more than often, if we do the wrong thing, the youth will likely respond with the right action.”  Pentagram has possibly designed the package to create the opposite reaction, catering to this mentality. On the other hand – for young people rebellion is tantamount to smoking a cigarette or drinking but really – an artificial flavored mango drink? 

 Principal of Lopez Design, Anthony Lopez gives his take. “There is an essential contradiction in the attempt to make sweet-tasting mango juice a rebel drink – unless you think sugar is sin, because mango is certainly not.  Then again, sugar is common to most drinks. Of course, it could be promoting a formula, which spells “rebel” and you simply have to taste it ASAP! Or it could be the packaging itself rebelling against the old pack. But will we even remember the old pack? Memory is fickle and we are forgiving in time.” Lopez notes that it is definitely a bold shift and thereby radical, but it does warrant suspicion, which makes it sneaky. “It fulfills a gap in the market but the product does not match it. You see the contradiction. On the other hand, is this very contradiction the strategy?”

The brand strategy tactics are disruptive by turning around expectancies and putting the mango in a place we cannot feel it. “It is not like there is not a emotive connection though – the lettering appears to come from the stencil fonts that one is likely to see on a crate”, Rehani notes. Yet, the logo and package are rather too smoothly finished and does not pick up the organic rigor and pleasure of sweet nectar. The new Frooti, for most, fails to deliver any heartfelt connection and associations as a sweet drink. “Earlier, emotion was the driver. Now, it is a force but it is not a very pleasant force”, says Rehani.

In nature, we find the strangest of lessons for branding. Naturalist Ranjit Lal writes about the rather ruthless behavior displayed by kites. In a batch of fledglings, the first-born pecks the later-hatched second one to death, ensuring his lone survival. The second is just a back-up plan for the parents. Every brand is out there for itself once it is born and the creators actually pit sibling brands against each other, ensuring they learn and do more than just survive. Says Ashish, “When you look at brand hierarchy in FMCG, all of them are owned by just 3-4 brands, which create multiple brands in the market. They fall under one umbrella and then they are put out there and made to fight with one another.” Cuba and Frooti are both produced by Parle-Agro but the consumer is hardly thinking about this when he reaches for a bottle of Cuba or now hopefully, Frooti.

Image courtesy Sagmeister and Walsh

Anthony Lopez comments, “In the supporting graphics, the concept of making packaging the hero by showing it giant size quite interestingly connects to Gulliver and larger than life characters.” This potency of largesse is about giving youth power, presumably. Yet, Sagmeister and Walsh’s brand launch uses comic-book style images that removes all attention from the natural goodness of Frooti, bordering on caricaturing. Underlying is a commentary on the “Indian way” of doing things: multiple cartons of Frooti are strapped to an auto rickshaw, balanced precariously; an elephant pulls a huge carton of Frooti ( there must be a lot of juice in that carton!) By being outlandish, the images call attention. The lack of a verbalized storyline makes the campaign less coherent, except for a small clue in @thefrootilife launched on Instagram – Sometimes you’ve just got to take a chance and dive into things.

 “My brain cells are itching for the answer before the results are out. Isn’t everybody’s?” says Lopez with a laugh, “There is a strong urge to know the truth behind the thinking! Obviously in time, sales figures will prove its worth. But in branding there are so many riders that one can hide behind or take credit, for failure or success.” Lopez questions likeability in design versus the capacity of power and money to push anything to make it successful. The highly engineered Apple watch with all its gimmicks can sport success. Yet, behind every branding exercise, there must be true belief for lasting impact. 14-year-old Dylan thinks the new Frooti looks like a wanted logo and 9-year-old Anoushka says it is “just okay-okay but needs to have some life in it”. Is it good or bad? Or perhaps this does not matter, taking a quote out of Hamlet, There is nothing either good or bad, but thinking makes it so. The Frooti Revolution can rely on Shakespeare and say – well, he said so. 


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