Arnell Strikes Again: Orange You Glad You Hired Him Tropicana?

Few people like to revel in the failure of Peter Arnell more than I do. I say that upfront.

The overly precious, bloviated, and usually wrong, bespectacled design “guru,” whose work I find to be as over-rated as almost anything Rosie O’Donell does on TV, belly flopped, of course, with his firm’s redesign of the Tropicana orange juice carton unveiled last month.

Apparently, as Stuart Elliott reported in the The New York Times, the PepsiCo division was bombarded with complaints and quickly replaced Arnell’s redesign with its old package.

From The Times: “The about-face comes after consumers complained about the makeover in letters, e-mail messages and telephone calls and clamored for a return of the original look. Some of those commenting described the new packaging as “ugly” or “stupid,” and resembling “a generic bargain brand” or a “store brand.”

The onslaught of complaints, which Elliott delightfully compared with “New Coke,” forced Tropicana to bring back its original carton with the familiar logo of the straw sticking out of the orange.

What I want to know: Just who the heck ARE these people who got so apoplectic about the new design of their orange juice box that they took time to e-mail, call, picket and threaten to change brands over a new box—not the juice inside as was the case with New Coke, but just the box graphics and the cap.

When was the last time these people went to a local school board meeting? I wonder. When was the last time they sought therapy? Are these the folks who don’t finish their prescriptions that I am always hearing about?

Getting back to Arnell. Design “gurus” are like investment advisers. If you give them your money, they will, not surprisingly, find a way to change what you have got already to justify their fee. Had Arnell done his work properly, he would have come back to Pepsi and said…”You know what…we have done some research and tested some ideas and we have reached a surprising conclusion. The best thing for your brand is to keep it the way it is.”

Did Arnell do any real research, or did his team just go into a room and start sketching after they cashed the check?

For this Arnell reportedly gets a million a month.

It is like a fellow I know who gave his money to an investment adviser a year ago. He had his money in money-markets and government bonds, unsure of the direction of the markets and playing it safe. But he felt he should be “in the market” and was ready to pay for professional advice on where to put it. His adviser flowed all his money into stocks and mutual funds right up to the point of the Lehman Bros. collapse. And for that advice, which has cost him 45% of its savings, he paid the adviser thousands of dollars in fees and commission.

This fellow wishes he had paid the adviser a 50-basis point fee on his portfolio for advice to keep his money right where it was, at least for a while longer.

And, I suspect, so does Pepsi.

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