Marketing: Flogging On A Blog

The exploding popularity of Weblogs--diarylike personal Web sites, also known as blogs--is often touted as a shining example of untainted expression. But marketers at Dr Pepper see the movement as the perfect launch point for a "grass roots" campaign for a new "milk-based product with an attitude," Raging Cow. The first step is an in-house blog (ragingcow.com); it tells the fictional backstory of the drink, which rolls out in April in flavors like Chocolate Insanity and Pina Colada Chaos.

Next comes a blog-related twist on viral marketing--recruiting "key influence bloggers" to promote Raging Cow by sharing their enthusiasm, linking to the site and distributing special screensavers, banners and skins. Beginning with an initial group of six people in their late teens and early 20s--flown to Dallas with their parents for an induction session--Dr Pepper hopes to develop a "blogging network" to hype Raging Cow and "be part of the 'in the know' crowd," says its brand-marketing honcho Andrew Springate. Those spreading the news via their blogs won't disclose their flackitude, says Springate, because officially they're not paid Dr Pepper employees; they only get promo items like hats and T shirts. "We're independent and can advertise Raging Cow the way we want," says Nicole, 18, a Louisiana high-school senior with a popular blog.

One Weblog guru thinks the campaign might backfire. "It seems ironic that a company would want to manipulate a phenomenon that's so generally bent on exposing things," says alpha blogger Doc Searls. "In my view blogs are the antidote to viral marketing."