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Bacardi targeted women with its new reduced-alcohol vodkas, and it went over as well as you’d expect

UPDATED: Tue., July 28, 2020

By Emily Heil Washington Post

It seems that everyone is pivoting these days.

That includes spirits giant Bacardi Limited, which is apparently walking back the branding behind a new line of reduced-calorie and -alcohol vodkas that was initially exclusively aimed at women. A Bacardi spokeswoman wrote in an email last week that the Plume & Petal products, which were soundly dragged on social media last week, are “not for women specifically.”

A millennial-pink flag went up this month when Food & Wine restaurant editor Khushbu Shah posted an image of a message she had received from a PR representative hoping to interest her in writing about the new collection, “by women, for today’s modern woman, intended to be enjoyed with other women.”

The solicitation from an outside PR firm suggested that the vodkas, which come in peach, cucumber and lemon flavors, were “light as a feather” and would be perfect served in a “Spa Day Spritz.”

The mockery came in as hot as a stone massage. Shah kicked it off, writing, “Ah, yes, just what I need in 2020! gendered drinks with half the alcohol.”

“This ad copy is from a Crystal Light ad from 1995,” another critic wrote. Others wondered why women would want a lighter booze these stressful days. “This is a pandemic,” one wrote. “How dare you.”

Bacardi soon weighed in, telling news site Metro.co.uk the company regretted the phrasing. “We are aware of the conversations on social media around the use of gendered language in a pitch,” the representative said. “We’re not proud of that, but we are proud of the female creators behind this product – unfortunately, a rarity in this industry – and we are proud of this great tasting drink.”

But it seems apparent that the original concept of Plume & Petal as Vodka for Ladies went beyond a bit of errant PR messaging. A cached version of a page on the brand’s website – which is no longer online – bears the headline “Plume & Petal: A Spa-Inspired Spirit for the Modern Woman.” It repeats the language in the now-disavowed pitch, describing the products as being “designed for women, by women.”

And even where the language isn’t overtly feminine, it’s clear that the target consumer for the 40-proof, 83-calorie pour is a woman, or at least the kind of woman who exists in the land of tampon and minivan commercials forever sighing her way through carpool duty.

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