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Sexism in the Soda Aisle

By Mike Breen · November 30th, 2011 · Lost in the Supermarket
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You’ve likely seen the TV commercials for the latest product by provocative soda brand Dr Pepper, Dr. Pepper Ten, and either flipped the channel instantly or watched in disbelief as a major advertising campaign appears very obviously to be stating that this soft drink is for men only. It is not subtly suggested with scenes of “manliness,” like bros playing a little touch football or, in the event of (any) weather, Madden NFL 12. In the excruciating commercial spots, a buff, cliché action hero type (sorta Bruce Willis with hair) spouts lunkheaded, pseudo-macho catch phrases amidst some cheesy action movie chaos exploding around him. It is a way-too-blatant attempt at ironic humor that’s cringingly clumsy and off-target, but it all seems designed to soften the blow of its bottom-line message — Dr. Pepper Ten: It’s Not For Women. 

It’s a boldly stupid motto, but because of the hyper-self-aware campiness of the marketing campaign, we are all supposed to know that it’s all just in good fun. “You know us, guys, we’re just jerkin’ your chains, ladies!” And then we all head to the kitchenette and pop open an icy cold Ten. Or TEN, as us dudes (and the marketing decision-makers) like to call it. 

The campaign fails because it’s only “funny” to a small segment of 15-year-old males.

But it also doesn’t help that, by the very nature of “catch phrases,” the beverage’s macho motto is going to be presented out of context. So when the campaign launched this fall, it should surprise no one that the commercials were a hot topic online, mostly as the source of riled-up rants about the sexism running rampant. It even garnered its own online petition, the true mark of a great pointless-yet-entertaining cyber uprising. 

Especially without the visual wink-wink clues, “It’s Not For Women” might well be the worst “catch phrase” for a product. In the history of products. And that’s fine with the Dr. Pepper makers. The company seems to be testing the limits of the Internet phenomenon that puts “value” on hits and buzz, regardless of content or substance. They literally don’t care what you “say” about them; they just want you to say it a lot. If they could have used “No Bitches!” they probably would have.

But what is this magical brew that Dr. Pepper is pushing exclusively to consumers with penises? It’s another subtle taste tweak on the original Dr. Pepper taste, the missing link between Dr. Pepper and Diet Dr. Pepper, the beverage makers’ lone successful offshoot that rightfully was marketed based on the fact that their diet version was very similar to its non-diet counterpart. The new “Ten” drink has a little sugar and 10 calories. If you’re keeping score, that means that entire taste spectrum between Diet Dr. Pepper and Dr. Pepper — with Ten slightly different in the middle — is about the same as a cold Dr. Pepper, a Dr. Pepper with one melted ice cube and a Dr. Pepper with two melted ice cubes. My taste tests bore this out. The tiny sugar boost and teensy drop in diet cola aftertaste is the only barely noticeable difference with Ten, though it probably only was apparent because I drank the “Big DP 3” back to back to back.

It’s not the first minuscule taste tweak from the good Dr. P. That microscopic flavor rainbow also includes tastes like Cherry Vanilla Dr. Pepper and Cherry Dr. Pepper. Wait, isn’t Dr. Pepper a cherry-flavored cola in its natural state? It’s almost as if Dr. Pepper invents new flavors for the sole purpose of launching marketing campaigns. The good Dr. should have his medical license revoked immediately. 


CONTACT MIKE BREEN: mbreen@citybeat.com



 
 
 
 

 

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