Mountain Dew: An Extreme History

"Terminate with extreme prejudice." That's how people used the word extreme in 1979. You say it when you're talking about assassinating a dude in Vietnam. Six years later a rock band calling themselves Extreme formed and ever since then, the word extreme has been ever so gradually losing its impact. By 1999, every flavor of Doritos was extreme. 

Mountain Dew, for the most part, has done a really great job at marrying extreme sensibilities with their brand. Or actually, the idea of extreme sensibilities. If you've ever skateboarded to the mall or rollerbladed behind the Learning Annex you've also stood in the parking lot of a 7-11 and slammed a Dew. That's just the rules and that's basically as extreme as Mountain Dew wants you to be.

If you are a sky diving surfer who robs banks, you're not Doin' the Dew. You're smoking PCP and getting "Live The Fear" tattoo'd on your calf. Mountain Dew is for people who want to be extreme, not people who are extreme and this is something most drink-makers never seem to figure out. But Dew knew this. There's a reason you don't see 12 year olds bungee jumping off bridges. 

Originally the name Mountain Dew was another euphemism for moonshine. In the early 40s, the first batch of Dew was made as a lemon-flavored soda to to be used as a mixer for 'shine that was too potent. Extreme.

In 1964, Pepsi-Cola bought Mountain Dew and capitalized on its cheeky name. 

Bottles and cans showed a barefoot hillbilly (Willie the Hillbilly) shooting a rifle at another (I presume) hillbilly. Also featured: a hound dog, a pig, an outhouse and an actual jug of moonshine. Extreme.

Mountain Dew grew in popularity with the catch phrase: "Ya-hoo, Mountain Dew! It'll Tickle Yore Innards!" in 1969 they changed the tagline to, "Get That Barefoot Feeling Drinking Mountain Dew." Extreme. 

In 1970, Dew added a third slogan: "Put a Little Ya-hoo in Your Life," cementing its reputation as the "wild soda." They also tried a 4th, short-lived one-liner: "Hello Sunshine," to win them the hippie vote. Extreme.

As Mountain Dew entered the Me Era of the 80s, they changed their slogans to emphatic imperatives. To see a can of Dew was to feel urgent and sudden thirst. And unlike the Rockwellian family visuals of Coca-Cola, Dew was always seen outdoors, in its natural habitat. In fact, there were no people in the ads at all. Just cans, always in motion, always exploding out of water as if the drink itself was having all the fun. Extreme. 

The 1990s led to rapid expansion, a new slogan (Do The Dew) and handfuls of failed campaigns. American Snark, being what it is, wouldn't allow for a semi-goofy soda to exist without pop cultural ridicule. This, consequently, led Mountain Dew to start making fun of itself in ads. And this of course resulted in some hard-learned rules about marketing Dew:

Never show Mountain Dew in a glass. It looks like poison. It looks like killer chemical poison. Extreme.

Do not sexualize or eroticize Mountain Dew. It makes people feel really weird. Extreme.

Don't attempt to draw parallels between US highways and the Great Wall of China. Extreme.

Do not ever assume kids appreciate casino culture or are attracted to (or allowed near) casinos. Extreme.

Do not make a self-aware old-timey can for Mountain Dew. It's clever but no one reads labels and even while I'm looking directly at this, I still think it's a can of diet ginger ale. Which I hate. Extreme.

Such misses finally led to an enormous paradigm shift within the Dew HQ. The company would no longer include adults in their target demo. They would focus exclusively on teens and young adults who were not only active (standard demo), but, ahem, extreme. 

Mountain Dew's website regarding the decision in 1993:

Despite the fact that no one does any of those things ever, Mountain Dew had successfully reinvented itself as the extreme soda. Sky-surfing is like Virtual Reality; they were wildly popular in the early 90s (and even combined in the Aerosmith video for Amazing) even though there was no practical way for anyone to engage in them. Doesn't matter.

In 1995 Mountain Dew sponsored the X-Games. FUCKING EXTREME.

For the next 10 years Mountain Dew enjoys being the undisputed soda of all things extreme. But eventually extreme started to be not so cool anymore. The X-games were getting poor ratings. Tony Hawk had his 5th kid. Your friends don't want to go to Taco Bell anymore. The kids became the adults. And the new kids have a new drink. 

Red Bull. 

The President of Dew Development saw this coming and called an emergency meeting to create an 11th hour Red Bull Killer. 

They launched every torpedo they had. Their results were viewed by a finicky consumer base as desperate, bizarre and like, gross. 

The movie Torque actually captured Mountain Dew's death gasp as the reigning champion of extreme soft drinks on film. It's not often things like this are preserved so perfectly:

Yay, Mountain Dew won the Cycle Bitch Battle. But they lost the War of Extreme. I'm not sad though, because if the Universe has taught us one thing, it's that nothing really dies. It just changes form. And Pepsi wouldn't do the Dew dirty like that. "When one of us rebrands, we all rebrand." So say we all.

2008. Mountain Dew becomes MTN DEW. Easy to drink. Easy to text. Easy to market to the least extreme segment of our population: Gamers.

That's World of Warcraft flavors Alliance Blue and Horde Red, and Halo 3 flavor Opposite of Extreme Orange.