Is Dr. Pepper Sexist Or Brilliant?

At a recent barbeque thrown by a friend and her now-ex boyfriend, said boyfriend was in charge of getting drinks for a mixed crowd. He did his job, and soon enough the table was creaking under the weight of assorted sodas—full calorie sodas. And I couldn’t help but think: What are the girls going to drink?

Dr. Pepper Ten is trying to feed both sexes from the same bottle. It’s Dr. Pepper’s ten-calorie answer to Coke Zero, which has by now been co-opted as a “girly drink.” Dr. Pepper hopes that through masculine (read: capital letters on a muted grey label) packaging and a testosterone-fueled ad campaign including the creation of “man caves” across the country and heavy-handed tag line “It’s Not For Women.”

Soda, Sexism, and Hypersensitivity.

It would be only too easy to operate from the default setting of “offended,” but there two issues with that: First, it’s funny. One of the commercials (below) includes the line “So you can keep the romantic comedies and lady drinks.” And let’s not lie—it’s funny. On the heels of the similarly laugh-out-loud line “Catchphrase,” it’s oddly reminiscent of a toweled Isaiah Mustafa (the Old Spice guy!), who deliberately appealed to women to sell a men’s product.

The other issue is that from a marketing standpoint, targeting men will reach a larger audience than explicitly targeting women. Women are more likely to buy products made for men. Think about a man wearing pink, and a woman wearing blue. For that matter, think about a woman wearing pants, and a man wearing a skirt. Who is judged more harshly? We always say that the best way to reach women as customers is to create a product or service that is useful to everyone. And despite the brand’s comic exclusion of women, chances are that future Dr. Pepper Ten cans will hit the recycling bin bearing lipstick marks.

But Diet Dr. Pepper was always good enough for me—and distinctly secondary to Diet Coke. What do you foresee for the drink that’s “not for women?”

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May 23, 2024
by Mary Lou Quinlan

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