Why Arnott’s listened to fan passion and put original Pizza Shapes back on shelves: Three lessons for SMEs

Arnott's Shapes

Source: AAP/Joel Carrett.

After receiving backlash earlier this year for its new range of Shapes flavours, Arnott’s has taken customer feedback on board and returned the much loved original Pizza Shapes to the shelves.

The announcement came through social media channels yesterday, with Arnott’s declaring: “Original Pizza is now back and available alongside other original Shapes favourites”.

In April this year, Arnott’s axed a number of varieties of its tried and true range of Shapes flavours, which have been around since the 1950s. Household staples like Barbeque and Pizza Shapes were modified to be more healthy, but the resulting flavour change left customers unhappy.

The company’s range of new flavours were introduced off the back of extensive market research, with the company claiming it “invested heavily in extensive research and development of these flavours with literally thousands of Shapes fans”.

However, the company found “literally thousands” of Shapes fans were unsatisfied with the new flavours, with Arnott’s savoury marketing director Rowena Ditzell telling Mumbrella the company received more than 2000 direct requests for the original Pizza flavour to be returned.

“Approximately six weeks ago, we felt we had enough data to make a decision to return Original Pizza. It took six weeks to reinstall the Original biscuit line, order ingredients and update packaging etcetera,” Ditzell said.

Speaking to SmartCompany this morning, Arnott’s communications manager Nicole Thomson said the decision was made “by popular demand”.

“We were monitoring feedback and sales, and we had a number of people clearly tell us they wanted the original Pizza Shapes back,” Thomson says.

“Original Barbeque and Chicken Crimpy remained on the shelves, and as Pizza is our third best seller it made sense to bring it back.”

Shapes fans have taken to social media to rejoice over the returning Pizza flavour, with one Facebook user saying “thank you for listening to the people. A change isn’t always a good thing”.

“It’s been really humbling, and I think we underestimated the passion Aussies had for Shapes,” Thomson says.

Here’s three lessons other businesses can learn from the Shapes saga.

1. The importance of customer support

Arnott’s had to employ additional staff in order to keep up with the customer feedback on the flavour changes, with Thomson saying “we had to put a few new people in our consumer contact centre”.

“It was important that we had real people for customers to speak to,” she says.

Nicole Reaney, director at InsideOut PR, told SmartCompany having a strong team to deal with customer feedback is “critical” for all brands.

“In this digital age, many businesses are cutting corners and removing communication avenues like the telephone. Being responsive to consumers when they need it will prevent a situation from amplifying,” Reaney says.

Michelle Gamble from Marketing Angels agrees, telling SmartCompany brands with core products should always help customers understand any changes.

“When there’s a core product like Shapes, it’s so important to have the right people to explain changes to customers,” Gamble says.

2. The passion of Shapes

Both Gamble and Reaney believe brands with passionate and loyal fan bases are more likely to get feedback from consumers, and acting on feedback is usually the right move.

“We’ve seen it with multiple iconic brands where highly aligned consumers feel strongly towards certain products. If there is a substantial degree of a social media storm or adverse media, a company will react efficiently as time is of the essence is preserving the loved brand,” Reaney says.

Gamble believes brands with passionate fan bases should always try to listen and act, as she believes “apathy is always a brand’s biggest competitor”.

3. Admit when you’re wrong

Finally, an ability to admit any mistakes is key when it comes to product changes, with Gamble advising businesses to respond to criticism “as soon as possible”.

“Responding sooner rather than later will mitigate most of the damage,” she says.

Reaney believes this behaviour can even drive more customers to the brand, saying, “consumers align to companies most when they are humble and show honesty in their communication.”

“This can even lead to new consumers feeling passionate and supporting the brand,” she says.

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too late
too late
4 years ago

too late. never buying Shapes – ever again. Sick of companies treating us like idiots with “new” or “improved” an epithet for “cheaper” or “worse”. only people power will stop this stupidity from marketers who ”read a book”. Pringles, woolworths, you are also on the list – plenty of other competitors out there!

SA Business
SA Business
4 years ago

I think what you’ll also find is, focus groups aren’t always right and “groupthink” kills genuinely good ideas.
If shapes took the right advice, they’d have found that people still wanted the same shapes – just with more of the same flavor – not a whole new product!

English Pedant
English Pedant
4 years ago
Reply to  SA Business

It is spelt “flavour” in this country. “Flavor” is the US spelling…

SA Business
SA Business
4 years ago
Reply to  English Pedant

I was going to write FLAVA, hoping your brain would explode.

Peter Morgan
Peter Morgan
4 years ago

Hey Pringles – over here….