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Why Soda Marketing Is Going Flat
By: Alexander Villeneuve
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By now, it's likely that you've seen the advertising for Dr. Pepper 10, which was recently launched as a diet alternative to its own diet alternative, Diet Dr. Pepper. However, this alternative is envisioned to be the alternative that male soda drinkers, who have not been quick to reach for a Diet Dr. Pepper, choose.

Commentaries will make a big deal about the off-beat "It's just for men" tactic that Dr. Pepper has employed in getting the message of this new variety out to consumers; however, that will not be the reason Dr. Pepper 10 is going to fail.

Along with its alternative cola counterparts Coke Zero and Pepsi Max, Dr. Pepper 10 was launched with calories in mind — the principle culprit of why more consumers are passing on their pop.

As the American body continues to tip the scale further than ever before, much of the blame gets directed at the empty calories consumed via colas. Consequently, sales have been trending down for almost a decade.

But regardless of whether soda is being unfairly scapegoated as the principle cause for the poor health of Americans, the parties responsible for selling it haven't done themselves any favors with their poor strategies. Diet Pepper 10 is just the latest example of soda marketers fighting the completely wrong battle.

Even diet or low-calorie sodas lack the nourishment that alternatives like water or juice can provide. Therefore, soda marketers are doing nothing but cannibalizing their own sales, because every new calorie-focused cola repositions the original product as lacking in some department. Thus consumers are left with an unenviable choice between "health" and "taste"; therefore, they're forced to compromise on something they desire. The trade-off leaves the feeling of disappointment every time they use the product.

What's a soda marketer do? When the conversation is about how unhealthy drinking soda regularly is, soda marketers should be working to change the conversation, not amplify it. The calorie-conscious line extension only furthers it.

Despite all of the research and trend reporting that is behind the health-oriented strategy of soda marketers, there are a lot of unhealthy categories that are growing.

Five Guys hasn't been hurt by the fact that one of its cheeseburgers has 840 calories (500 from fat). They don't talk about it, and the fast-casual burger category grew by 16.4% last year.

The explosion of gourmet cupcake shops is no exception. While most likely less than an entire cake, a cupcake is still full of calories.

Perceived as a healthier alternative, the ready-to-drink iced-tea category has benefited from the misfortunes of soda marketers. However, eight ounces of Arnold Palmer Half & Half has 50 calories. Eight ounces of Snapple Raspberry tea has 100 calories, the same amount as eight ounces of Coke Classic. These marketers don't talk diet. Not yet, anyway.

The marketers at Dr. Pepper should study their history. Mid-calorie colas Pepsi Edge and C2 tried and failed. This will fail, too. However, I just hope that soda marketers eventually learn why their products inevitably fail. Many will eventually pin the blame on their head-scratching tactics. Few will know that it's because their line-extension strategy downgrades the original product and forces consumers to sacrifice something want.

If I was a marketer at Dr. Pepper, I'd think about the days when I didn't care about calories. As a kid, drinking soda was treat because it was sweet and tasted good. Like most kids and teens, I didn't care about the calories because I didn't need to. If there is any saving soda, Dr. Pepper included, they need to focus on why the product makes people happy. I think it's clearly the sweet, 23-flavor formula that simply cannot be improved.


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About the Author

Alexander Villeneuve loves to hear from readers. It makes him feel important, so please contact him on Twitter or his blog.

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