A new ad campaign for Dr Pepper Ten, a 10-calorie soft drink from Dr Pepper Snapple Group, pitches the brand as a diet drink for men only, relying on gender stereotypes for its laughs—or, as it turns out, the lack thereof.
One TV commercial for Dr Pepper Ten has an actor exclaiming, “You can keep the romantic comedies and lady drinks. We’re good.” There’s also a game on the brand's Facebook page in which men can shoot feminine items like high heels and lipstick.
How bad of a marketing misfire is this?
"This campaign is generating a lot of buzz, but not the kind Dr Pepper may have been seeking," says Maria Reitan, senior principal at Carmichael Lynch Spong. Reitan says Dr Pepper has based its campaign on outdated gender stereotypes, and that the brand has gone the extra mile to exclude the most powerful consumer in the country—the home's chief purchasing officer.
"She also dominates Facebook, a critical component of Dr Pepper's campaign," says Retain. "While the key to success in both advertising and public relations is to know and appeal to your core consumer, don't do anything to disenfranchise those who can be swept along for the ride."
Data from YouGov’s BrandIndex, which assesses “buzz scores” on a scale of -100 to 100, backs up Reitan's analysis. It recently asked men and women if they heard negative or positive things about Dr Pepper in the two weeks since the campaign began. The results? Women’s scores went down from 32.9 to 18.4. And in an ironic twist, the drink also lost favor with men as their score dropped from 21.5 to 16.4.
In a situation like this, how can PR be used to respond?
Reitan advises, "Dr Pepper must rethink its approach since its campaign is already generating negative reaction. I advise a swift and sincere response."
While Jim Trebilcock, EVP of marketing for Dr Pepper, told media outlets like USA Today and The Huffington Post that “women get the joke” and the ads are meant to be conversation starters. As Reitan explains, "Had Dr Pepper chosen a more nuanced approach, women could have been in on the joke instead of being the joke. Sometimes being over the top has its rewards, but there are risks."