For the second time in recent months, Dr. Pepper has us saying, “WTF was that about?!” after seeing its ads. First there was the “Not For Women” ad for Dr. Pepper 10 that had us wondering why the brand would try to upset and alienate half the consumer population. Most recently, we were perplexed by its “One Of A Kind” spot that is one part Mentos Ad, one part flash mob, and one part university ad. The spot first aired during the BCS championship game between LSU and Alabama, and is clearly directed at Millennials, but it misses the mark in so many ways, we’re sure that the intended audience is also scratching its head.
The ad begins with a young guy wearing a suit and tie who decides he’s not like everyone else, and peels off his corporate uniform to reveal an “I’m a one of a kind” shirt in the Dr. Pepper font. So far so good, if a little clichéd and grammatically messy. As he strolls through a train station, more people join him, revealing Dr. Pepper shirts with various statements, including “I’m a cougar,” “I’m a control freak,” “I’m a rockstar,” and “I’m a rebel,” ultimately ending with the guy handing a Dr. Pepper to a girl wearing an “I’m a Pepper” t-shirt on the steps of what looks like a university building. The music, a reworking of Sammy Davis Jr.’s “I Gotta Be Me,” couldn’t possibly be cheezier if it were sung by a high school singing group doing their best “Glee” impression. Along with the ad, Dr. Pepper’s website encourages visitors to make their own declaration about who they are by writing it on a t-shirt (sadly, no, you can’t then order the t-shirt to wear; another miss).
Dr. Pepper is right that Millennials are changing the workplace and the stereotype of the corporate employee. They also want to be acknowledged as unique and original. What they don’t like are labels. They don’t want to define themselves in a few words; they can’t. They have such a diversity of interests and passions and ways of presenting themselves that they don’t want to limit themselves by adopting a label.
Part of their aversion to labels is a factor of youth — they’re still figuring out who they are — but part is generational. Millennials have grown up with the world at their fingertips, allowing them to explore whatever fascinates them. The personas they adopt and the topics they’re into change from day to day because they have a vast resource to feed their curiosity. Labeling themselves as “Twilight” fans, Gleeks, football players, hipsters, or political activists barely scratches the surface of who they are, so they’d rather not wear a label at all.