The “Be a Pepper” campaign was introduced at the 1977 Dr Pepper’s Bottler Meeting Las Vegas, Nevada. (For those that are interested – It was at the Sahara Hotel and Casino where the 1960 version of Ocean’s 11 was filmed.) At the meeting, the company’s executive officers highlighted the success of the company’s previous landmark campaigns including “Drink a Bit to Eat at 10-2- 4 o’clock” and “America’s Most Understood Soft Drink.” The company recognized that in order for its success to continue it needed to gain additional volume by introducing greater usage frequency among current drinkers. In particular the company wanted to focus on drinkers between the ages of 13-30. With those ideas in mind, the advertising was introduced.
First, to hit the scene was the “Pied Piper” of Peppers, David Naughton, who appeared in many of the campaign’s commercials. (He later would be known for his role in the horror film, American Werewolf in London, in 1981.) Other commercials soon introduced other famous Peppers – artists such as Michael Jackson and the Jacksons, Chic, The Statler Brothers, Tanya Tucker, the Little River Band, and Popeye the Sailor Man. Thanks in part to its tenacious advertising, the campaign itself became the third most popular in the U.S. in 1980. In that same year, J.C. Penney announced that 1,800 of its stores would offer a variety of sportswear and accessories featuring the “I’m a Pepper” logo. From 1977-1982, it was pretty hard not to have heard or seen anything related to “I’m a Pepper” or “Be a Pepper.” The “Be a Pepper” theme officially ended in 1983 when it was changed to “Dr Pepper Made a Pepper Out Of Me.”
According to the Dr Pepper Company, “A Pepper is a person who loves Dr Pepper. So a Pepper can be anyone. And any age. Because being a Pepper is really more a state of mind than a counting of years. The only thing about a Pepper that’s sure is their absolute craving for originality. Even what they drink must be unique. Peppers aren’t weird, strange or oddball. They’re positive, self-confident, bold and willing to try something new. Peppers are proud. And Peppers are popular. So wouldn’t you like to be a Pepper too?
Well… would you?