Dr Pepper and the Delicate Dance of Negative Publicity
I’m increasingly convinced that there’s a wonk high up in the Dr Pepper advertising hierarchy trying to figure out who he/she can piss off next.
Not really piss off — or at least, not really piss off anyone sane — but who can be tweaked just enough to froth and rage for a while on Facebook without actually doing any meaningful damage to the brand.
Last year’s ill-fated “Dr Pepper 10: Not for Women” campaign, quite rightly, drew ire for being both sexist and stupid (the soda also tanked, though that might be as much because, like all diet sodas, it tasted like crap, rather than due to any advertising failure).
This year it’s the creationists that are howling, thanks to a new “Evolution of Flavor” graphic. As far as I can tell the image was designed for and launched on Facebook specifically, which seems pretty deliberately-tailored to generate a backlash that is both immediate and inconsequential.
This is, obviously, an offense to Our Lord Jesus Christ, as many people are reminding us. Predictably, tabloid news sites and lowbrow blogs like this one are picking up the “Religious Loonies Freak Out Over Nothing” story, featuring the new Dr Pepper ad prominently.
Accidental? Who can say. I suspect not, myself.
There’s nothing actually offensive about the ad, making stories about people who found it offensive more damaging to those people than to Dr Pepper. Everyone that reads one of these stories is going to at least be reminded of Dr Pepper’s existence, if not necessarily enticed to buy one in the hopes of evolving to a higher stage. And it’s unlikely that they’re going to lose statistically significant numbers of fundamentalist purchases. Net gain, Dr Pepper.
You can get yourself in a lot of trouble doing this. Actually angering people with legitimate concerns is never a good marketing strategy. But this one — so far — looks like an excellent job at generating lots of storm and noise without upsetting anyone beyond a few isolated and uninfluential loonies.
And since I like Dr Pepper, I’m happy to have done my part in spreading the story. So there you have it.
Don’t bother correcting my punctuation; Dr Pepper has left the period out of their name since the 1950s. Who knew?