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Dr Pepper takes on no-cal with low-cal sodas

A year after launching Dr Pepper TEN, a diet drink targeted at men, Dr. Pepper Snapple says it will unveil new 10-calorie drinks to challenge zero-calorie brands.

Dr Pepper is going beyond its existing Dr Pepper TEN product to fully roll out 10-calorie versions of other soda brands in its family, like 7-Up and Sunkist. A handful of consumers have tried these products through test marketing in limited areas.

The expanded line of drinks from Dr Pepper Snapple Group is the latest example of a soft drink industry that has gotten far more complicated than just regular and diet. There are now categories in between, low-cal and mid-cal. It’s part of an attempt to stop the decline in carbonated soda as many drinkers opt for sports drinks, bottled water, juice and flavored water.

Low-cal or mid-cal drinks offer the prospect of a healthier option than regular soda, but a more full-flavored experience than zero-calorie beverages. Diet soda has historically gotten less interest from male drinkers, so many of the new low-calorie drinks aim to be more attractive to men.

Dr Pepper has taken this thinking perhaps as far as it can go, loading its advertising with bro imagery. One ad packs into 30 seconds: power tools, explosions, giant TVs and for good measure, a cowboy riding a mechanical shark. Bro skulls can be thick, the better to absorb celebratory headbutts. So to be absolutely positive the message gets through about a drink promising “10 manly calories,” the ads end with the tagline, “Dr Pepper 10. It’s not for women.”

The risk of this approach is pretty obvious.

“There’s a number of women as well that do not like the diet drinks,” says Joe Pawlak, executive vice president with the food consultancy Technomic. “They may be missing an opportunity to also attract women.”

Marketers know what bros know. If there are too many bros around, women disappear. These new low-cal drinks will target men and women, promising more flavor than diet drinks.

Mark Garrison: Now, this can be hard for a public radio listener, but to understand, you really need to put yourself inside the mind of the bro. Imagine the morning after a long night of watching Ultimate Fighting with the dudes from your beer pong league. After dousing yourself with AXE body spray, you notice your shirt just doesn’t fit the way it used to. But zero-calorie sodas, those are for girl diets, not bros.

John Sicher: Dr Pepper 10 marketing was geared toward males.

John Sicher is editor of the trade magazine Beverage Digest and he’s putting it very, very lightly.

The Dr Pepper 10 campaign is wall-to-wall bro, with power tools, explosions, giant TVs and of course, a cowboy riding a mechanical shark. Bro skulls can be thick, so to be absolutely positive the message gets through, the ads end like this.

Ad: Dr Pepper 10. It’s not for women.

Ten manly calories, in Dr Pepper’s words. But what about selling to the non-bro section of the population? Joe Pawlak is with the food consultancy Technomic.

Joe Pawlak: They may be missing an opportunity to also attract women, because there’s a number of women as well that do not like the diet drinks.

Marketers know what bros know. If there are too many bros around, women disappear. The new low-cal drinks will target men and women, promising more flavor than diet drinks. In New York, I'm Mark Garrison, for Marketplace.

About the author

Mark Garrison is a reporter and substitute host for Marketplace, based in New York.

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