Well, hello there. You look a little parched, like you could use some refreshment perhaps? How about a Dr. Pepper Ten to cool you down? Oh wait – sorry ladies, you’ll need to go powder your nose or go re-vacuum the stairs. This extreme beverage is only for men – no women allowed. I know because it says so right in the advertisement.
As you might imagine, the angle Dr. Pepper has chosen to take for their 10-calorie diet soda drink has ruffled quite a few feathers. Okay, it’s ruffled a lot of feathers.
- Like my coworker who angrily forwarded the video to everyone in the office.
- Or Steve Hall who explained why we can’t swallow the joke.
- Or the AP and Village Voice.
- Or the women leaving snarktastic comments all over the Dr. Pepper Facebook page.
You could say it’s kind of a mess.
If the ad campaign was designed to get Dr. Pepper its fifteen minutes of Internet flame and fame, well then it certainly worked. But if they were trying to be clever or do market segmentation in any sort of intelligent way, they failed. And not at all because of the ad’s no-women stance.
Dr. Pepper failed the same way so many brands fail do when they get online.
- They tried to be edgy and were just sad.
- They tried to be polarizing and were just silly.
- They failed because if they WERE going to offend anyone, that ad is more offensive to men than it is to women.
If there’s one thing I wish brands could learn is that you can be polarizing and still be intelligent. You can be clever without pandering to the lowest common denominator of man (or woman). You can be edgy without being an idiot or a royal bitch.
When you dumb down your marketing, you not only embarrass yourself, but your entire audience.
And that’s what I saw happening with Dr. Pepper’s ad for Dr. Pepper Ten. I wasn’t offended as a woman that this diet soda company was saying I couldn’t play. I was offended with how badly they were doing it.
Men shooting lasers in the woods?
Men making fun of women for watching chick flicks?
Men riding ATVs?
Really? That’s the best Man Zone content you’ve got? Come visit the Outspoken Media office in Troy and I’ll let you yank my pigtails, too.
Not that it’s uncommon, mind you. We saw a similar mess with Groupon earlier this year. They tried to be funny and polarizing and instead ended up begging for forgiveness with its tail between its legs when they couldn’t take the heat. Manly.
Being edgy/polarizing/remarkable without falling off the stupid cliff requires two things:
- A true understanding of your audience to know how they need to be pushed.
- A backbone.
It’s rare to find a big brand that has both.
They polarize people by making intelligent arguments that speak to a common problem, experience or villain and strongly push people toward a certain belief. You wouldn’t find any of them dumbing things down for their audience or running through a forest with lasers.
Well, that’s not true. You might find Matt Inman in a forest shooting giant cats with lasers, but I digress…
At Outspoken Media, we’re also known for doing some pushing. Whether we’re outing brand jacking, calling out Google, mooting your excuses or getting everyone worked up over the topic of the day, we know how to play off people’s emotions to get them riled up. As a marketer, I’d argue that you have to. And it’s healthy.
“There’s nothing wrong with being edgy in marketing or purposely polarizing or pissing off your audience at times. There’s nothing wrong with Dr. Pepper going after a male audience and poking fun at us females. But there is something wrong with insulting everyone’s intelligence to do that. For me, that’s where Dr. Pepper went wrong.
I also found it interesting that Jim Trebilcock, executive vice president of marketing for Dr. Pepper, noted he wasn’t worried that women would be offended by the ad. He said that “women get the joke” and that their macho stance was “a way to start the conversation that can spread and get people engaged in the product”.
Jim – no one is engaged with your product right now. They’re engaged with telling you how dumb you are. And when they forget all about this flare-up in a week’s time, you won’t even have that.
In your attempt to be memorable, you actually became forgettable. That’s offensive.
About the Author
Lisa Barone co-founded Outspoken Media in 2009 and served as Chief Branding Officer until April 2012.