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Loud Sun Chips Bag – 1 of Pepsi’s 5 Worst Branding Disasters

After less than two years on the market, the biodegradable Sun Chips bag is destined for the trash heap. The packaging made a lot of noise (pardon the pun) with critics because it was perceived as louder and more “crinkly” than any other packaging on the market.

Now, the eco-friendly bag that started as a good environmental deed and creative branding has now become a lesson in marketing gone wrong. The loud Sun Chips bag has been silenced, though Frito Lay insists it is rolling out a new and improved version across the U.S. in the weeks ahead. (Editor’s note: A previous version of this story implied the biodegradable bag was being discontinued altogether.)

That has to leave a bitter taste in the mouth of PepsiCo (NYSE: PEP), parent company of Frito Lay and the maker of Sun Chips. Not just because of this specific incident, because it is the next in a long line of rebranding disasters for the company.

Here are the details on the five worst branding disasters at Pepsi:

5. Sun Chips Biodegradable Bag

Here are the specifics on Sun Chips: Launched in April 2009, the idea was to merge an environmentally conscious image into existing branding of Sun Chips as a healthy, natural snack. So it switched the plastic in its bags to a special kind that made from renewable, plant based materials and encouraged consumers to toss the bag in their home compost pile instead of the trash. But no good deed goes unpunished. The plastic was seen as overly noisy, and bad press included YouTube videos featuring decibel meter tests and even a Facebook page with over 50,000 “likes” and the title “SORRY BUT I CAN’T HEAR YOU OVER THIS SUN CHIPS BAG.” The company announced today the bag is getting bagged after numerous complaints.

4. New Pepsi Logo

Another 2009 branding move that was panned by consumers and marketers alike when Pepsi’s $1 million expenditure for a new logo — even though it looked almost exactly like its previous logos. The Arnell Group simply slanted red-white-and-blue circle on its side and tapered the white band in the middle, then made the font for “Pepsi” more modern. The result was a lot of head-scratching from shoppers, chuckling from competitors and even claims from some that ad man Peter Arnell was the “Bernie Madoff of brands” for taking so much for so little.

3. Tropicana Cartons

Pepsi didn’t go the way of Coca-Cola (NYSE: KO) by messing with its flagship beverage, but it came close in 2009 by messing with one of the most recognizable juices in America. Tropicana Pure Premium orange juice ditched its popular packaging and its iconic straw-in-orange design for a modern look with a picture of OJ-filled stemware half on one side and half on another. The move not only hurt branding – the straw-in-orange clearly evokes fresh taste – but materially hurt sales with a 20% decline in 2009.

2. Gatorade Goes G

A similar rebranding was also carried out in 2009 regarding the iconic sports drink, Gatorade. PepsiCo execs decided to ditch the old lightning-bolt logo and even the name – opting simply to call it G. The result was that Gatorade volume sales fell by 13.7% in the first quarter of 2009 after the campaign launched and a 6 point loss in market share. Pepsi has scrambled to regain its brand power with its three-part Gatorade campaign of Prime, Perform and Recover, but many consumers still are put off by the new appearance.

1. Crystal Pepsi

In 1992 Pepsi spotted what it considered to be a gap in the cola market – impressive after a push for caffeine-free lines, cherry cola lines, diet lines and so on. It’s brainchild? Create a clear cola that isn’t colored like the rest. Pepsi mused that Crystal Pepsi would answer a “new consumer demand for purity.” Not so much. The product launched in 1993 and died in 1994, and clear cola never caught on. It was like a green donut maybe tasty, but too unfamiliar to win over customers.

Jeff Reeves is editor of As of this writing, he did not own a position in any of the stocks named here. Follow him on Twitter via @JeffReevesIP and become a fan of InvestorPlace on Facebook.

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