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Jun 10, 2024
(Updated on
Jun 10, 2024

Dr Pepper Rises to #2: America's New Favorite Soda

When you think of popular soda companies, Coca-Cola and Pepsi likely come to mind first. For years, these two giants have dominated the market. However, there's a new contender shaking things up: Dr Pepper has now surpassed Pepsi to claim the number two spot for carbonated soft drinks in the U.S. Let's dive into how Dr Pepper achieved this impressive milestone.

Photo by Brandon Richardson on Pexels 

The Uprise

Dr Pepper is the number-two soft drink in the United States. The 140-year-old soda brand has risen to this position by strategic use of investment, patience, and nimble marketing. Dr Pepper has had unwavering backing from Keurig Dr Pepper, the brand's parent corporation, ever since the 2018 transaction that combined Dr Pepper Snapple Group with Keurig Green Mountain. The substantial rise in marketing spending across the board is proof of this backing.

According to Brad Rakes, Keurig Dr Pepper's senior director of brand marketing, the company's success can be traced back to its consistent investment and perseverance. In an effort to differentiate itself from industry heavyweights Pepsi and Coke, the brand has fully embraced its individuality as a game-changer. Dr Pepper's distinctive flavour does double duty: it brings people together and provides them with a delicious treat.

In recent years, Dr Pepper’s marketing efforts have expertly balanced consistency with a willingness to break traditional rules. “The brand is 140 years old,” Rakes noted. “If you do the same things you were doing 140 years ago, that’s not going to fuel growth.” This blend of innovation and tradition has been crucial in Dr Pepper’s ongoing success and its ability to stand out in a highly competitive market.


Photo by Unseen Histories on Unsplash 

Staying Innovated 

Founded in Waco, Texas, Dr Pepper predates both Coca-Cola, established in 1886, and Pepsi, Dr Pepper was founded in Waco, Texas, before Pepsi (1893) and Coca-Cola (1886) were even formed. The wide variety of tastes, smart advertising, and widespread distribution of the brand are all contributing factors to its rising popularity. Soda Shop trends have had a major impact on the popularity of flavoured soft drinks, especially in Utah where the "Dirty Sodas" fad has been trending on TikTok. The current fad is to flavour soda with milk, cream, or other ingredients. Many new carbonated soft drink varieties and brand extensions have recently hit the market, catering to consumers' desires for healthier beverage options. Inspired by the soda and creamy mixer combination, Dr Pepper has jumped on the bandwagon with limited-edition flavours like Dr Pepper Creamy Coconut. Dr Pepper's new Creamy Coconut taste hit the market with a 50% spike in volume sales in just five weeks, and the brand's Strawberries & Cream variety made over $300 million last year. These numbers show how well the new flavour is doing with consumers.

Photo from Dr Pepper website 

Lynne Field, head of strategy at FutureBrand, stated that customers perceive Dr Pepper as more innovative, having a brighter future, and, most importantly, being more unique and distinct from Pepsi.

“In comparison to Pepsi, consumers view Dr Pepper as having a more promising future, doing a better job at keeping up to date and, importantly, being more distinctive and different than Pepsi,” 

Adaptive Advertising Approach

Trends persist, and Dr Pepper acts swiftly to address them.  The brand's loyal customer base, especially among buyers who buy from them often, is a blessing. An example of this kind of unanticipated and unusual brand loyalty would be the recent fad of pairing Dr Pepper with pickles. The company wasted little time jumping on the bandwagon, releasing a TikTok video that went viral, amassing over 2.5 million views. Dr Pepper's marketing strategy is both comprehensive and responsive, as shown by their quick response. Rakes elaborated on how the brand takes advantage of the ubiquitous current marketing data and technologies, as well as a quick-thinking staff and streamlined operations, to achieve its goals.

@drpepper shoutout to @Mississippi Memaw ♬ original sound - Dr Pepper

How do They use Football to Their Advantage? 

Over the last many years, Dr Pepper's marketing strategy has been strongly associated with college football. The corporation became the first official sponsor of the college football playoffs in 2021 after signing quarterback D.J. Uiagalelei in 2014 for its "Fansville" campaign. An allegory for high school sports dramas such as 2018's "Friday Night Lights," "Fansville" follows a continuous plot about a town's football-obsessed followers. Marketing Dive reports that this year will mark the return of the campaign's seventh season, which was created in partnership with Deutsch LA. 

Photo from Keurig Dr Pepper Website 

College football continues to serve as a creative platform for Dr Pepper to communicate with fans. The brand focuses on subjects that inspire discussion about the game. This last year's campaign featured quarterback Caleb Williams, who won the Heisman Trophy, and also introduced "FANicures," a nail polish kit that was influenced by both Williams' mother's profession as a nail technician and his own gameday rituals. The key ingredient to "Fansville," as Rakes sees it, is genuine enthusiasm and an understanding of the culture of the sport. This allows Dr Pepper to deftly combine unique elements of the players' brands into their own universe.

As Dr Pepper secures its position as the second-largest soda brand in the U.S., it's evident that their success is no accident. Through strategic investments, bold marketing tactics, and a commitment to innovation, Dr Pepper has differentiated itself from industry giants like Coca-Cola and Pepsi. By embracing its rich history while staying attuned to evolving consumer trends, the brand has carved out a unique identity in a fiercely competitive market. With a keen focus on authenticity and a knack for staying ahead of the curve, Dr Pepper's ascent to the number two spot is a testament to its resilience and adaptability. As the soda landscape continues to evolve, one thing remains clear: Dr Pepper isn't just a competitor – it's a force to be reckoned with.

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