Women drink “diet,” while guys sip “calorie-free”

By avoiding the D-word, Coke Zero marks itself as manly.

Topics: Advertising, Broadsheet, Love and Sex,

Who knew that sodas came with genders? Apparently the people behind the new Coke Zero, a calorie-free soda formulated to taste exactly like Coke Classic. According to the New York Times, “Coke Zero is aimed primarily at soda drinkers who are ages 18 to 34, with a tilt toward men. To underscore those intentions, Coca-Cola describes Coke Zero as a ‘calorie-free cola’ rather than a ‘diet cola.’” The article continues, “The word ‘diet’ is avoided because it implies — particularly to younger men — that a beverage is meant only for older, female consumers.”

Hello, younger men out there: Is that true? I mean, sure, I have childhood memories of my mother wandering around the apartment with a can of Tab. But it never occurred to me that drinking a can of Diet Coke might make someone feel like less of a man.

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The other odd thing is the ad campaign itself, in which Coke Classic tries to sue Coke Zero for tasting too much like the real thing. (The spots are funny, and available at the site linked above.) The ads are just making fun of that old American pastime, litigation, but what’s interesting is that given the beverage’s target market, I’m sure the ad teams talked about gender when they came up with the campaign. I’m not saying Coke is implying that women don’t like to sue — but I do feel sorry for American guys, since apparently masculinity in 2007 involves not cowboys or secret agents, but … lawyers. Because nothing screams “masculinity” like a desk job in a fluorescent-lit office. At least now the dudes won’t have to drink diet soda.

Catherine Price is a freelance journalist and author of "101 Places Not to See Before You Die". She also runs a legally themed clothing shop called Illegal Briefs.

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