It’s become a lesson in how not to market to today’s media-savvy young men. In 2011, Dr. Pepper unveiled Dr. Pepper 10, a low-calorie soda with gunmetal grey packaging and the exclusionary slogan: “It’s not for women.”
An initial ad campaign featured a gun-toting action star dodging lasers, punching snakes and of course drinking Dr. Pepper 10. The ads were immediately criticized as sexist, even sparking a petition to stop the campaign. But the criticism went further, questioning whether the portrayal of masculinity was also a flawed tactic.
“Parallel to the overall message that Dr. Pepper Ten is not for women were prescriptive orders on how to be a man,” reports the youth market research firm YPulse. “Any possibility it could be interpreted as facetious was undone by its bossy, directive tone.”
Take two: In 2013, Dr. Pepper unveils a new commercial spot, but this time they offer a picture of retro manliness so laughably over the top that there is no direct challenge to the viewer’s masculinity.
Washed out like a vintage beer ad, the commercial follows a burly mountain man who eats bark and howls for a swooping falcon that plucks a can of the soda from a river for him. Instead of “Not for Women,” the slogan is the clearly more farce-laden “The Manliest Low Calorie Soda in the History of Mankind.”
The new spot taps into a complex portrait of masculinity that Gen Y men are comfortable with – self-effacing but also self-aware.
“They are a group so media savvy, so aware of brand maneuvering that they understand instinctively what audience brands are trying to target and how,” says Ypulse. “To capture an audience like this, they need to be in on the joke.”