NEW YORK — Dudes don't drink diet. Or at least that's the idea behind Dr Pepper Ten, a 10-calorie soft drink that Dr Pepper Snapple Group rolled out last week with a macho ad campaign that proclaims, "It's not for women."
The soft drink was developed after the company's research found that men shy away from diet drinks that aren't perceived as "manly" enough.
To appeal to men, Dr Pepper made its Ten drink 180 degrees different than Diet Dr Pepper. It has calories and sugar, unlike its diet counterpart. Instead of the dainty tan bubbles on the diet can, Ten will be wrapped in gunmetal grey packaging with silver bullets. And Diet Dr Pepper's marketing is women-friendly, whereas the ad campaign for Ten goes out of its way to eschew women.
For instance, there's a Dr Pepper Ten Facebook page for men only. And TV commercials are heavy on the machismo, including one spot that shows muscular men in the jungle battling snakes and bad guys and appearing to shoot lasers at one another.
"Hey ladies. Enjoying the film? Of course not. Because this is our movie, and this is our soda," a man says as he attempts to pour the soda into a glass during a bumpy ATV ride. "You can keep the romantic comedies and lady drinks. We're good."
Dr Pepper Ten is not the first diet soda aimed at men. (Think Coke Zero and Pepsi Max.) But Dr Pepper Ten's ad campaign is the first to be so overt about courting men who want to drink a soda with fewer calories. The ads come when overall sales in the $74 billion soft drink industry are slowing as more Americans buy healthier options, including juice and bottled water. Volume has fallen from slightly more than 10 billion cases in 2005 to 9.4 billion cases in 2010, according to Beverage Digest data.
"Regular sugared soft drinks have declined in recent years, and some consumers have taste issues with some of the diet sodas," said John Sicher, editor and publisher of Beverage Digest.
Dr Pepper said men, in particular, are dissatisfied with the taste and image of diet drinks. The company wouldn't disclose the formula of Dr Pepper Ten, but it said the drink has 10 calories and 2 grams of sugar, giving it a sweeter taste. Dr Pepper said there are 23 flavors in its regular soda, (which has 150 calories and 27 grams of sugar per can) and Dr Pepper Ten contains all of them.
The company, which declined to give figures for how much was spent on the campaign, worked hard to craft a macho message. The company said ads for Dr Pepper Ten will air on all major networks, FX and ESPN during college football games.
A Facebook page for the drink contains an application that allows it to exclude women from viewing content, which includes games and videos aimed at being "manly." There's a shooting gallery in which you shoot things like high heels and lipstick, for example. There is also a "man quiz," with questions on fishing and hunting.
"One topic people never tire of talking or arguing about is differences between men and women, particularly if women are excluded," said Deborah Mitchell, executive director for the Center for Brand and Product Management at the University of Wisconsin School of Business. "That will always get someone's attention."
Whether the ads will resonate with men remains to be seen. Paul McDonald, 25, who works in green energy contracts in Berkley, Calif., says he drinks soda labeled "diet" and doesn't think there is any stigma attached.
"No one has ever made fun of me for drinking a Diet Coke, and I'm on a rugby team and we make fun of each other for everything," he said.
And what about women? Jim Trebilcock, executive vice president of marketing for Dr Pepper, said he's not worried that they'll be offended by the campaign. The drink and marketing were tested in six markets across the country before being rolled out nationally, and women weren't offended, he said. In fact, about 40 percent of people who have tried the soda so far are women.
"Women get the joke," he said. "'Is this really for men or really for women?' is a way to start the conversation that can spread and get people engaged in the product."