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April 7, 2003

COMMENT: Dr Pepper/Seven Up rage against the machination

Dr Pepper's attempt to contrive a wave of online support for its Raging Cow drink seems to be in danger of backfiring. The online community has caught on to the attempt to engineer a new fad and is striking back. Dr Pepper now stands to lose a great deal of popularity for exactly the same reasons it hoped to gain some.

Dr Pepper’s attempt to contrive a wave of online support for its Raging Cow drink seems to be in danger of backfiring. The online community has caught on to the attempt to engineer a new fad and is striking back. Dr Pepper now stands to lose a great deal of popularity for exactly the same reasons it hoped to gain some.


Dr Pepper’s venture into the lawless territory of the World Wide Web is in danger of backfiring. The initial plan to harness the support of the more popular denizens of the online community has led to shrieks of outrage from dedicated users of the web’s more interactive features, such as ‘blogs’ and chat rooms.


Dr Pepper’s ambitious plan was to use the community-oriented, responsive and faddish nature of the net to gain polarity for its new product launch. Accordingly it invited 5 of the web’s most popular ‘bloggers’ (runners of personal web logs of their daily lives, deep thoughts and personal affairs) to sample the product with instructions to go back and publicize it by sending visitors of their sites to the product site. To maintain the appearance of a spontaneously generated craze, the Raging Cow site contained only subtle hints that this was a corporate venture – it tried its best to maintain the air of an amateur enthusiast’s work.


Clearly the online community does not appreciate being taken for a ride. As soon as word leaked out, the Raging Cow site received angry messages accusing it of indulging in fraud. While there are a lot of benefits to be derived from online popularity, they cannot be bought or created artificially. Abusing the trust of online consumers could have serious negative consequences.


The same forces that were meant to publicize and promote the drink have now turned against it and started an active campaign against the product in an effort to taint its image in consumers’ minds.


Attempting to engineer online approval was always a risky strategy and it cannot yet be said to have entirely backfired. However, things do hang in the balance – Dr Pepper stands to lose a lot of good will as a result of trying to fake mass appreciation.


Related research: Datamonitor, “Tweenagers” (DMCM0131)

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