As the COVID pandemic carried on into its seventh deadly month, somewhere in a remote office, an okay-paid copywriter wrote this sentence: “Red Lobster® and PepsiCo, Inc (NASDAQ: PEP) are teaming up to create exciting new ways to enjoy great seafood along with the great taste and variety of PepsiCo products.”
In this case, the exciting new way to enjoy great seafood is something called the Dewgarita, or, as the copywriter’s bosses style it, the “DEW® Garita, the first official MTN DEW® cocktail.”
Maybe you’ve seen it on social media. You’d recognize the Dewgarita. It’s bright, fluorescent, space-alien green — almost violently eye-catching. It’s like it was concocted more to rack up views on Instagram than to actually, you know, taste good. It was, of course.
But set aside this marketing ploy of a beverage for a second. There’s plenty about the Dewgarita to enjoy (assuming you don’t actually drink one), but we’re here to talk about Red Lobster’s Dewgarita press release, which is both hilarious and tragic. It’s also sort of sweet. It’s a letter from a world in which the Dewgarita is just an honest attempt at a fun new cocktail, a world in which you and your friends can get plastered on PepsiCo brand beverage products next to a tank of doomed sea creatures without immediately choking on COVID.
Here are a few things that make Red Lobster’s Dewgarita press release such a great document of the United States of America during the dying days of 2020:
1. This press release, like the Dewgarita itself, is iconic, which we know because it keeps calling everything “iconic.”
Red Lobster and PepsiCo will “leverage their iconic food and beverage brands to create a variety of craveable new menu items,” reads the release’s first paragraph. “The DEW® Garita pairs perfectly with Red Lobster’s iconic Cheddar Bay Biscuits,” says the second, which also ends by promising that “iconic” Frito-Lay and Quaker products are going to get involved in this mess soon, without saying quite how. What a tease — can’t wait for 2021.
Red Lobster’s response to the pandemic slump seems to be turning halfway into a 7-11. Stay tuned for the Cheeto Garito. These iconic icons are creating iconic new experiences for consumers, and that description is itself an icon of an ugly age. Also note that of the brands mentioned, only Red Lobster itself can be certified as “iconic,” and that’s only because of the name drop in Beyonce’s 2016 hit “Lemonade.”
2. It’s the first appearance of 2021’s Word of the Year, which will be “Garita.”
Let’s talk style. Red Lobster and PepsiCo (NASDAQ: PEP) made up the brand name DEW® Garita, and we should respect that and print it how they want us to print it. But we won’t. We’re sticking with “Dewgarita.” It’s a matter of principle: If you’re going to make a bad portmanteau, you must finish the job.
“Dewgarita” is like a margarita but with Mountain Dew, see? You smush the two words together into one word. We’re not sure what it’s called when you break a word in half — a starboardmanteau? — but so far, we’re not thrilled with the results. Maybe they didn’t want to call it a Dewgarita because they were afraid people would mishear it as “Doogerita” and assume it’s a Doogie Howser, M.D.-themed drink. That’s a fair concern.
Still, “Garita” is a bad coinage. It’s a word we don’t need and shouldn’t have to look at. And to hear this press release tell it, Red Lobster is just getting started with Garitas. By this time next year, we’ll be staring at a whole menu full of snack food/tequila hybrids called Garitas. But we’ll all be so drunk on Garitas we won’t care.
3. This press release captures the true voice of the people (rich ones).
Here’s a little trade secret: Quotes in press releases are made up. No one ever said them. The writer just throws them in as a vague gesture at the idea that this is newsworthy stuff, and news has quotes, so here are some quotes.
But maybe you really can imagine Nelson Griffin, senior vice president and chief supply chain officer at Red Lobster, saying something like this: “Red Lobster is thrilled to work with PepsiCo, not only because it has a great portfolio of brands, but specifically because of the food and beverage innovation possibilities.”
People called vice presidents really do speak like that. They read too many press releases. Our second-favorite quote on the internet also comes from this press release. It’s from Hugh Roth, chief customer officer of PepsiCo Global Foodservice, whatever that is.
“Red Lobster and PepsiCo both understand how much food and beverages enhance memorable moments, from casual gatherings with friends to milestone celebrations,” the writer who got permission to use Roth’s name wrote, under Roth’s name.
And that brings us to our next and pointiest point.
4. This press release echoes many American people by ignoring a pandemic that has killed a quarter of a million Americans (and counting).
Okay, okay. You don’t want to associate your brand with tragic events. That makes sense. Most press releases avoid touchy subjects, and in marketing school, that’s what they’d tell you to do. Still, there’s something jarring and offputting and — if you’re a bit jumpy already — a little infuriating about reading anything that encourages “casual gatherings” and “milestone celebrations” in the United States in late 2020.
It’d be different if we were talking about a new kind of fish dish, maybe. “Now you can have peanut butter on your flounder at Red Lobster.” That’d be an okay kind of press release, just telling it how it is. Business must go on. But the Dewgarita itself is such a cynical ploy, such an attention-grab: a neon sign inviting you out to dinner with friends.
5. In a just world, we’d be talking about something else entirely, like Bud Light Brand Cran-Brrr-Ritas or Rita Hayworth.
The Dewgarita does not exist because a bartender thought it’d taste good. It’s not here because someone at Red Lobster found out how many of you were getting blitzed on tequila and Code Red at home, and thought, “You know, there’s a niche we could fill.”
It’s here because it looks good on the internet, and it’s weird enough to get a lot of comments, and that gets Red Lobster attention, and when Red Lobster has attention, more people go eat there. A lot of people will be like, “Ha ha, let’s get plastered on DEW® Garitas as a joke,” but it won’t really be a joke. They will also enjoy the experience, pending hangover, and then they will spread the coronavirus all around their homes and neighborhoods. Hilarious.
“With both of our brands on deck to wow guests, we can’t wait to dream up more phenomenal flavor pairings together to bring some very special offerings and experiences to the table,” the okay-paid copywriter with a very well-paid boss wrote, under an extremely well-paid man’s name.
But now is not a time for sharing tables, not at Red Lobster or anywhere else outside the home. And you know what’s really easy to mix at home? Mountain Dew and tequila.