The Doctor is Out in Dublin, Texas: A Lesson in Loyalty

By Brandon Carter | Updated on Jan 16, 2012 12:31:55 AM

I like to think I'm a fairly savvy guy. I work in the loyalty world, I know the complex (and sometimes not so complex) tactics loyalty marketers deploy to attempt to build an emotional connection between consumer and brand. Working in this industry (and for a company that has relationships with 250,000+ merchants) has helped me refine my standards for the brands to where I offer my devotion.

With that in mind, I shouldn't be bothered by the news that Dublin Dr Pepper will cease production immediately. I haven’t had a Dublin Dr Pepper in ten years.

But I'm pretty bummed about it. Anytime a product that truly delivers on what it promises has to go away because of some extraneous circumstance, it hurts the customer-centric perfectionist inside me.

If you've ever lived in Texas, you've probably heard of Dublin Dr Pepper. This little town sits nestled somewhere between Abilene and Forth Worth, plus a little south. A suburb of Stephenville, if you will. Dublin is the home to the Dublin Dr Pepper Bottling Company, the first Dr Pepper franchise outside of its original home in Waco.

Dublin Dr Pepper had a distinctly different flavor from the usual Dr Pepper I had tasted. That's because the Dublin varietal used Pure Cane sugar, eschewing the transition of nearly every other drink to high fructose corn syrup.

It. Was. Awesome. The sugar cane gave it a smoother, sweeter, more natural taste. It didn't feel like drinking something generated from a dingy science lab somewhere in Jersey. It was the perfect companion to smoky West Texas BBQ. In short, it was the flavor of my college years (non-alcoholic category.)

Despite having an audience and a beloved tradition, it’s gone. Because of the threat of brand dilution. It was a perfect product that had earned oodles of customer loyalty the hard way over a century, and now it’s been sacrificed in favor of "protecting" the bigger brand.

Like a lot of other people who grew up in the 90s, I used to have a big chip on my shoulder about bands that would “sell out.” It took me a while to get used to hearing Metallica on top 40 radio when I had grown to love them as a heavy metal outfit that created ten-minute instrumentals with words like "Kthulu" in the title. I'm okay with it now.

But there is something to be said for a product that is built great and stays great (think AC/DC, still releasing the same album over and over again, and still good).

The perfection of Dublin Dr Pepper has spoiled all other soft drinks for me. It's the last soda I drank regularly, and probably always will be.

Dublin Dr Pepper didn't reach out to me with emails or ask me to check-in using FourSquare. I didn't get a free one by purchasing ten. The point is, sometimes it isn't about brand marketing, having a social strategy, or even loyalty programs at all.

They just had an amazing product that rigidly, sweetly stuck with what worked.

The lesson from my perspective? Master your product, perfect it, and any loyalty efforts you place on top will be that much more improved. Don’t let the law of the brand get in the way of something that works.

Ever had a product in a crowded category like soda, or cell phones, or batteries, that was so good it forever prevented you from even considering a competitor? Let me hear about it.

Topics: Viewpoints, Access Development, texas, soda, customer loyalty, social media

Written by: Brandon Carter

Brandon is a writer and marketer for Access Development. He's a frequent blogger on customer and employee engagement & loyalty, consumer trends, and branding.

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