Since I specialized in multicultural marketing communication in graduate school, I tend to applaud brands’ (thoughtful and culturally-sensitive) efforts to branch out into multicultural marketing. Until this morning, when I read an AdAge article by David Morse about the soft drinks industry heavily targeting Hispanics and African-Americans.
My first reaction was that it is insensitive (dare I say unethical?) to push sugary drinks on segments of the population with a higher obesity rate. But as Morse points out in the article, multicultural marketers usually clamor for minorities to be better represented in advertising, so isn’t it hypocritical of us to be outraged when an industry does just that? What’s more, on a personal level of hypocrisy I have to confess that I indulge in the occasional can of Dr. Pepper. The cognitive dissonance was driving me crazy until I realized what really bothers me: soda is positioned as something to drink all the time.
In the article, Coca-Cola’s president is quotes saying that there is no scientific evidence connecting sugary drinks to obesity, and that soda can be part of a good diet. Now, I am sure that people can enjoy soda in moderation. No more than three cans a week according to the American Heart Association, and that’s assuming that you consume no other sugary drinks. But soda is not branded as an occasional indulgence. Last years’ Diet Coke campaign, “Stay Extraordinary,” shows people mindlessly sipping on soda like it is second nature to reach for a can. And last year’s Hispanic marketing campaign, “Open Happiness,” shows a man hoarding Coca-Cola presumably to drink it all on his own.
Changing people’s perception of soft drinks as an occasional treat rather than a go-to drink may alleviate the obesity issue. But if consumers change their three-cans-a-day habit to a three-cans-a-week habit, the bottom line will suffer. Do you think it’s possible to find a happy medium?