Dr Pepper draws Creationist Christian fury with flavor 'evolution' poster


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Dr Pepper draws Creationist Christian fury with flavor 'evolution' poster
Dr Pepper has incited fury among Creationist Christians, after posting a Facebook poster showing the ‘evolution of flavor’ for its flagship brand, in a tongue-in-cheek twist on the evolutionary 'March of Progress’.

The three-stage graphic (pictured right) shows an ape in a first ‘Pre-Pepper’ phase, before a ‘Pepper Discovery’ stage shows another human forbear with a Dr Pepper can on a rock: ‘Pepper Discovery’.

The final ‘Post-Pepper’ phase shows a modern day human drinking from a can of the soft drink, in what is clearly intended as a humorous take on the iconoclastic image representing human evolution.

The poster also carries the slogan ‘Evolution of Flavor’, then immediately below this: ‘A one of a kind schematic brought to you by Dr Pepper.’

For those not in the know (I think you all are), Creationist Christians take the Bible literally, and do not believe that human beings evolved from animals.  

Brilliantly clever or brain dead?

What do I think? Well, I’m a business journalist covering the beverage industry, and I don’t want to mock people’s deeply held beliefs, or bore you by banging on about my own. It’s not in the job remit.

But I will admit that I’m not a Creationist. I also get mad at some things. But not posters like this.

I suppose the key question for any big brand – and let’s face it, big brands do play on deeply held cultural and philosophical beliefs to sell sodas, cars, vacations – is whether branding or advertising invites hatred, ridicule or contempt upon a group with deeply held beliefs.

If that is the case then one should junk it, be it brilliantly clever or simply brain dead. Use that USB-powered missile launcher and shoot that strategy paper right at the nearest corporate trash can.

Should Dr Pepper have done so here? Well, I don’t think so, although there’s clearly a fine line between humor (which involves irony, satire) and offense, so I’m keen to hear your thoughts.

To start with, is it not possible to turn things round and claim that Dr. Pepper’s ‘schematic’ pokes gentle fun at a key image used to represent Darwin’s ideas, accepted by many in Western culture?

Anger on Facebook...

And that’s just the point. Presented with a tongue-in-cheek poster with one cryptic statement, not directed to any specific group – and simply referencing a belief set, and why not Marxism or the idea that the earth is flat? – I find some of today’s foam-flecked Facebook fury baffling.

Nonetheless, this row shows how debates concerning religion infiltrate every area of life, including food, and how quickly viral marketing campaigns can go global and attract boycott or fan groups among like-minded people, who can connect more easily.

With this in mind, viral marketers for big companies need to tread carefully when deciding whether a particular campaign for a drink is more likely to attract consumer vomit or be seen by them as vogue.

Whether the folks in the Dr Pepper boardroom evolved or are the result of a real life 'creationist' event performed by a divinity, the main rationale for such a company campaign was clearly the desire to shift soda. It remains to be seen how this particular brand backlash evolves.

Anyway, here’s a flavor of the Facebook debate as of today, with users either pro- or anti-Pepper.


1.‘If you are a true Christian, you will share this. Dr Pepper displayed an advertisement on their Facebook page endorsing evolution.

As a Christian I find this very disappointing, and this is my formal promise never to drink Dr. Pepper or any of its sister brands, which include Snapple and 7UP.

2.‘Not drinking DP for a while, I don’t support evolution. Creation is the way to go’


4. ‘I’m a bleeding heart liberal, but I find this advertisement to be very offensive regardless of whether evolution be true or false.’


1.‘Listen, you angry birds out there. It’s just a soft drink and a funny advert. No need to feel world peace is disturbed by this advert.’

2.‘I’m a Christian. I like Dr.Pepper. I don’t see anything wrong here.’

3.‘We are supposed to respect hardcore Christians for their beliefs, but they cannot respect those of us who believe in evolution for ours. Key word: respect.’

4.‘This ad was not created to offend anybody. If it was, tell me why a multi-billion dollar company would risk its name to do so. Because it is not saying that evolution is real or fake.

‘If it said ‘God sucks – drink Dr. Pepper’, then yes that is wrong. Calm down and don’t get offended so easily over something that other people believe.’

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Excellent article and Humorous Ad

Posted by Jennifer,

I think Marc is absolutely right - the folks who wrote this ad were searching for a common cultural meme through which to reach the collective subconscious, but instead stumbled on a growing cultural rift. My advice to the self-righteous Christians who can't tolerate or respect any alternative world views, despite being the glad recipients of their fruits - chill out. Our culture is based on science, not religion. Nobody's trying to diss you. But honestly, it's becoming difficult to tell you from the Muslims!

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Not offensive at all

Posted by DJ,

The people who are in a tizzy over this ad have too much time on their hands, and look for trouble where none exists. They should get a life and maybe a hobby, then they won't have so much time to carp and complain about everything. The ad is cute, and surely there is nothing in it that should offend intelligent people.

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Chrontagonists versus Dominionists

Posted by Marc Chimes,

The point of advertising is to use cultural touchstones to change behavior. The poster was used precisely because it was thought to be a common cultural meme. It says something about our culture that the most innocuous of common references can reflect with such luminous clarity the very lack of commonality endemic to our current society. Woe to the poor copywriter who must find a way to sell sell sell without yells yells yells..

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