Marketing

The end of Sunnyboy ice treats causes outrage online: Should nostalgia affect business decisions?

Dominic Powell /

Experts have warned businesses that customers who complain online are often not the brand’s core buyers, after The Daily Juice Co came under fire for discontinuing the iconic Sunnyboy ice-block line.

The triangular ice-blocks have been an Australian lunchbox and tuck shop staple since the mid-20th century, but were discontinued due to a lack of sales, news.com.au reports.

In a statement from Sunnyboy manufacturers The Daily Juice Co, the company revealed sales of the ice treat had been languishing.

“The Daily Juice Co can confirm that we have regrettably had to make the hard decision to stop production of the icy treat, Sunnyboy, as of August 2016,” a spokesperson told news.com.au

“Unfortunately, Sunnyboy has experienced a sustained reduction in consumer demand over a long period of time, making it necessary to delete the product from our range of water ice treats.”

This announcement prompted a flurry of social media backlash, with Sunnyboy fanatics taking to all forms of social media to express their unhappiness.

But some consumers believe Australians only have themselves to blame.

“Oh save your sooking, they are shutting down because no one has been buying them. Shoulda put your money where your mouth is – too late to cry now,” said one comment writer on Facebook.

Some hopeful fans want the product to go the way of Arnott’s Shapes, which recently re-introduced its classic Pizza flavour after huge customer backlash. A change.org petition has already sprung up, calling upon Australians to “Bring back the Sunnyboy.”

Are online complainants the ones most likely to buy a product?

However, marketing and social media experts have warned businesses that those taking to social to complain about discontinued or changed products might not actually be core customers of the brand.

Catriona Pollard, social media expert at CP Communications, told SmartCompany social media has made it much easier for anyone to leave negative or unhappy comments about brands.

“Before social media, you’d just have a bitch to a friend or family about a business, now it’s so easy to make a comment online,” Pollard says.

“The people who are leaving these comments, they’re not necessarily your customers and are generally not a reflection of how your brand is perceived.”

A case of “vocal minority” can often apply in these situations, but Pollard says businesses should still be listening to that minority.

“Brands need to listen and take it on board where the vocal minority are making negative comments, but not necessarily make changes as a result of those comments,” she says.

“It is best to see it as an indicator.”

A case of nostalgia

Brands heavily associated with one generation’s nostalgia can often live on through that alone, and this nostalgia if often the cause of complaints when changes are made.

Nicole Reaney, marketing expert at InsideOut PR, told SmartCompany products like the Sunnyboy are often “synonymous with the summer memories of adults who were children of the 80s and 90s”.

“Consumers have a personal attachment to these products as they reminisce about their childhood. It does not necessarily mean that they are current consumers of the brand, nor does it mean they have an intention to purchase,” Reaney says

“It’s more around holding onto these memories and perhaps sharing their experience with their own children.”

Pollard agrees, saying, “just because consumers remember a brand, it doesn’t mean the company is obliged to continue it”.

However, nostalgia can be used to form a stronger bond with consumers.

“There is brand equity in nostalgia, and businesses should absolutely use nostalgia to create emotion and connection with their customers,” Pollard says.

SmartCompany contacted the Daily Juice Co but did not receive a response prior to publication.

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Dominic Powell

Dominic Powell is a journalist at SmartCompany and a tech and music geek. When he’s not writing, you can find him reading or browsing record shops.

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  • One of the best examples of so-called “nostalgia-driven” marketing is the classic Wurlitzer 1015 jukebox which could only handle 10 10″ 78-rpm records. But it was the entertainment system in many burger joints and similar eateries during the 1950s as these places became the center of the “Baby Boomer” teenage economy — the teenagers worked there but also used the places as somewhere to meet up and eat or drink. Wurlitzer subsequently released a variant of this design that used solid-state amplification and could handle 50 7″ 45-rpm records and called this model the “1015 One More Time”. A subsequent CD-based variant was even issued for this classic juke box, catering for the new disc-based medium.
    This was about perpetuating a well-known well-loved design while adapting it to current requirements. In this case, the juke box was about access to the latest rock’n’roll independent of what the radio stations deigned to play while providing the soundtrack for casual after-school meet-ups.