Promotion Crashes Dr. Pepper Web Site

What happens when you offer everyone in America a free 20 ounce Dr. Pepper, and point them to your web site? That crashing noise is the sound of the web servers at DrPepper.com.

What happens when you offer everyone in America a free 20 ounce Dr. Pepper, and point them to your web site? That crashing noise is the sound of the web servers at DrPepper.com. The company's promotion was originally intended to be a one-day event, but was extended after Internet users reported problems accessing the Dr. Pepper web site to claim their coupon.

"The response has been greater than anticipated and we want to do everything we can to ensure Dr Pepper fans get their free coupon," said Tony Jacobs, vice president of marketing for Dr Pepper. "As a result, we've extended the offer, increased our server capacity and added a toll-free number, 1-888-DRPEPPER, for consumers to call to request their Dr Pepper."

Earlier this year Dr. Pepper pledged to give a free soda to everyone in America if the long-delayed Guns N'Roses album "Chinese Democracy" came out in 2008. When the album appeared last week, the company made good on its promise and directed thirsty Americans to claim their coupon on DrPepper.com on Sunday, Nov. 23.

The Dr. Pepper site is hosted at Rackspace Hosting (RAX). There are widespread reports that the site has been unreachable. I was able to reach the signup form once, but other efforts failed.

Late last night the company extended the offer and added the phone number.

How do you plan for capacity when you make a free offer to 300 million people? Perhaps limiting it to a one-day offer was not such a great idea in the first place. It's a different scenario than Starbucks' high-profile offer of a free coffee on Election Day - which was made via TV ads and could be redeemed at any Starbucks. Whatever expectations Dr. Pepper may have been, they clearly underestimated Americans' love of free stuff. It will be interesting to see whether this wounds up being seen as a costly PR disaster (think of  the call center staff now taking orders by phone) or as raising brand awareness.

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