Tag Archives: marketing

Dr. Pepper Ten: I Have to Wonder …

Debbie says:

The new “Dr. Pepper Ten” is a diet soda for men. This seemingly simple sentence raises a few questions:

Maybe it’s a little late in Western cultural history to question the concept of diet sodas, but I still do. If you want a low-calorie beverage, why not drink water? Or flavored water? Or flavored fizzy water? Or iced tea? If you want sweet taste without simple carbs, why not drink juice? None of those are packaged as “diet” drinks, and just the idea of a diet drink makes a lot of people feel good. I know lots of people who drink diet sodas because that’s what they like, without a weight-loss goal. I support that, of course. I have to wonder, though, what they would drink if the diet soda had never been invented, or popularized.

The idea of a drink for men is nothing new either. As we all know from the commercials, beer is for men, unless a particular beer happens to be for women. Wine is for women, or men who want to impress women, or sometimes rich men even if there are no women around. I have to wonder how those distinctions came about and who profits from them.

Dieting, until about 15-20 years ago, was mostly for women, so diet drinks were, by definition, for women. But capitalism requires an ongoing search for new consumers, so a lot of energy has been put into getting men to diet, or pretend to diet, or look like they’re dieting, and diet sodas are a great way to do that. So in this period, diet soda has become (in the commercials at least) one of those rare things that men and women can both enjoy without jeopardizing their status as real members of their genders.

But not now. Now we have Dr. Pepper Ten, which isn’t subtle. The product’s tagline is “It’s Not For Women.” There’s almost nothing about it on Dr. Pepper’s home page, but Lisa McTigue Pierce at Packaging Digest says:

Dr Pepper TEN will feature a distinctly masculine package design, complete with a gunmetal gray color scheme, industrial rivets and bold new font.

Consumer feedback and research showed that many men between the ages of 25 and 34 are not completely satisfied with the taste or image of diet sodas—although they understand the need to make healthier beverage choices.

The national launch of Dr Pepper TEN will be supported by an integrated marketing campaign, extending the “It’s Not for Women” theme through national television, print and online media. Consumers will also see a new, provocative social media campaign—including a bold Dr Pepper TEN Facebook application that only men can access.

As a trans ally, I have to wonder how they’re defining and identifying men for this application. I also have to wonder how it can possibly be legal. And how many women have worked on the creation, design, and marketing of the product.

When I first saw Aphra Behn’s open letter about this on Shakesville (quoted below), I couldn’t believe the marketing vice president’s name. I thought the whole thing might be an elaborate joke. But it’s not. Here’s Christopher Heine writing at ClickZ:

Speaking with The Associated Press, Jim Trebilcock, EVP of marketing for Dr. Pepper, downplayed anger at the campaign. The drink and advertising were trialed in six U.S. markets before being rolled out nationwide, he said, and women weren’t offended. Trebilcock told the AP that 40 percent of consumers who have tried the soda so far were females.

“Women get the joke,” he said to the wire service. “‘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.”

Trebilcock? Really? I have to wonder what childhood traumas around his name affect his marketing choices.

As mentioned above, Aphra Behn hits a huge number of high spots in her letter to Dr. Pepper/Snapple. Here are just a few, but please read the whole thing:

One: Do you think that emphatically declaring the product off-limits to women is the fastest way to get women “engaged in the product”?

I know that emphasizing men’s inherent superiority and declaring certain things off-limits to women has in the past actually encouraged women to “get engaged” with things like literacy, voting, wages, and the right to their own bodily autonomy. But it usually takes a long time before women actually enjoy those off-limits things—we’re talking centuries, here. Is that a normal advertising cycle in business, or are you more hoping lots of people will buy this in the next month?

Two: Does your product need a boost in the key misogynist asshole demographic, and if so, is labeling that entire demographic “men” really wise?

Four: Did someone in your advertising team tell you this campaign was hip, edgy, or original?

If so, I think you should pay closer attention to the grades your clever marketing minds got in their history classes. An obsessive fear of women and the feminine (and the need to establish masculine superiority by denigrating the same) isn’t new, nor fresh, nor original. In fact, it rather made me wonder if you were planning to re-release the entire campaign in dactylic hexameter, because it would appeal so well to the key dead Homeric Greek dude demographic.

I have to wonder if Aphra Behn could possibly be that funny without Jim Trebilcock’s help, and the help of his clever marketing minds.

Boobs, Bodies, and Book Covers

Debbie says:

Lidia Yuknavitch has a marvelous post on The Rumpus on the decision she and her female publisher made to put a woman’s breast on the cover of her new book, The Chronology of Water.

book cover featuring breast with nipple

(cover photograph by Andy Mingo)

It’s a boob.

With full frontal nip.

What happened next of course is that the book went into design and production. We all understood we were making a cover that was at the very least atypical. Possibly controversial. Absolutely, as it turned out, problematic for some in terms of visually showcasing the cover. For example, Facebook does not “like” naked boobs.

Yuknavitch goes on to talk about the gender issue that arises when a book cover like this is chosen, designed, and supported by women, and is considered “unacceptable” by a system that is predominantly male. (Her publisher, Rhonda Hughes of Hawthorne Books, has created a wrapper that covers the tit, so in effect the book has a boob cover and a no-boob cover.)

When it comes to representation, it is not entirely OK for women to insist upon the representation of their own bodies in their own terms. And by OK, I mean culturally sanctioned, commercially viable, literarily or intellectually respected. And when I say in their own terms, I mean with a specific representational validity and aim, and without apology. You are just going to have to trust me with this next statement when I say, virtually NO agents or mainstream or commercial presses would touch this cover. Few literary presses would.

You don’t have to trust her with that statement; you can trust me instead. I’ve worked in book publishing on and off since 1988, and I do it now. Nipples are taboo in publishing. Laurie and I know exactly which Women En Large photographs we can send to newspapers and magazines, because the nipples are either not in the picture or not very visible. On book covers, nipples and pubic hair can’t even be discussed in the cover conference. Yuknavitch is also right that women’s bodies, which are used to sell everything else under the sun, are not common on “literary” book covers, perhaps because they are used to sell everything else under the sun, and literary books perceive themselves as different. The nipple rule is decades old. In the 1990s, when we discussed revisiting it at the publisher where I was working, we were told that it was not open to discussion.

In her discussion of people’s reaction to holding the book, Yuknavitch says:

… people would be embarrassed to be seen with a boob book in their hands. Though it’s true enough that LOTS of other people would be downright skippy and proud to hold one in public and wave it around – I have a boob book! HA! – she also meant, at least implicitly, you can’t have a nude woman on the cover of your book if you intend to be taken seriously by the wizards in charge of marketing and consumption in the literary industry.

I think she misses one point here: books are things that we hold. Advertisements are things that we look at, and either turn the page or keep driving. I expect people who understand most or all of Yuknavitch’s arguments about the body (we’re getting to those) might still feel a little uneasy holding that naked boob in their hand for the hours it takes to read the book, especially (but not only) in public.

She goes on to discuss the philosophy behind her choices. By philosophy, I mean an extremely appealing mixture of Plain Talk and references to famous philosophers.

Let me tell you why I became insistent about the cover. My memoir is, at its heart, about how I survived the life I was dealt, kind of like we all do. The central and enduring metaphor that holds the story together is swimming. And the central site of meaning in this story I have told about making a self from the ruins of a life is a body. A real body.

An eating, fucking, shitting, peeing, sweating, bleeding, body.

… Part of the dire problem is that it is quite difficult to make the assertion that one owns ones mode of representation and ones mode of production and the meaning making operations of ones body as a woman.

Yes, I mean that in the Marxist sense.

As it turns out, those ideas – commodity, labor, production, distribution, epistemology and ontology – seem unequivocally reserved for the realms of philosophic discourse, on the one hand – and in particular, whether we want it to be true or not, a rather patriarchal philosophical discourse, and on the other hand, market driven rules and regulations, another patriarchal bastion which does not include women owning the signification modes.

One of the things I kept thinking as I was reading was, “Well, yes, but the reader can’t tell that the cover was chosen and designed by women. From a purchaser’s, or advertiser’s, or even store bookbuyer’s point of view, what’s the difference? Yuknavitch answered me quite neatly by the end of her post:

That body ain’t no airbrushed hot model’s body. That boob is not “man-made.” That nip isn’t quite right – and what’s not quite right about it is that it’s a real nipple. It sits how it sits, is sags a bit, there are imperfections all around it. Also, I have it on good authority that it’s the boob and nip of a woman closing in on fifty years old.

… this is what happens when you put the mode of representation, production and distribution in the hands of, well, smarty women. There is no silicone or push-up bra or tantalizing sexualization, fetishization, or ironic stance. There are freckles and saggages and discolorations.

The cover is showing you something about an ordinary woman’s body. Inside, the text is saying something about how an ordinary woman found a self by and through her own body. Between seeing and saying, a dialogic exists.

Now she’s speaking Body Impolitic’s language: images of real bodies are the truly radical images of these times. The wizards in charge of marketing and consumption in the literary industry may shy away from all nipples, whether sagging and aging or perky and young, but the wizards in charge of marketing and consumption in the wider world love every image they can find of young women’s bodies (or at least Photoshopped young women’s bodies). No one but a few smarty women are smarty enough to love images of all bodies … and to be aware of just how transgressive it is to not just show, but showcase, the otherwise invisible ones.

As she makes all of these clear points, Yuknavitch references Kristeva, and Cixous, and Bakhtin, and Zizek, and Jhally, and more, all with links for those who don’t know their work.

Now I want to read the book.

Thanks to Alan Bostick for the pointer.