Making Diet Soda Manly

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Pepsi may have launched a new "skinny can" just in time for fashion week, but the diet soda industry's primary target isn't figure-conscious females. Coke Zero, Pepsi Max, and Dr. Pepper Ten are all currently banking on ad campaigns that focus on catering towards men. Natalie Zmuda at Ad Age points out that while Coke Zero and Pepsi Max have paired up with such manly endeavors as Nascar and the NFL, Dr. Pepper Ten's target demographic is the most unequivocal, with it's latest ad labeling the soda "Not for Women."

Dr. Pepper, for one, plans to push its 10 calorie beverage on the heartland's manliest men, peddling free samples of the out of a "mobile man cave" in Des Moines, Iowa; Austin and San Antonio, Texas; Denver, Colorado; and Kansas City, Kansas. Dr. Pepper is placing considerable emphasis on the "bold" flavor of those precious calories, as opposed to other zero calorie drinks because, as Kansas City blogger Robin Wheeler put it, "if you're going to endanger your masculinity with diet soda, those calories damn well better be bold! Not like those frou-frou calories in that sissy-ass ten calorie version of Vitamin Water."

So far, the male initiative has been successful, particularly among 25-to-34-year-old consumers. "Mid-calorie sodas such as Dr. Pepper Ten could be just the boost the struggling soft-drink category needs, as consumers look to trim calories from their diets and health advocates blame the fizzy drinks for obesity and diabetes," suggests Zmuda. Diet soda faces a significant publicity hurdle as mainstream and social media have recently been advancing the notion that diet drinks may cause strokes or heart complications, despite arguments from the health community to the contrary. Marketing Daily's Karlene Lukovtiz wonders how the top soda companies' so-far successful, man-focused ad campaigns will fare in the face of such potential smearing accusations--true or not.

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