For Immediate Release—Monday, Nov. 27, 2006
Mary E. McCrank
Media Relations Officer
SUNY Geneseo Professor Researching Controversial Cocaine Energy Drink
GENESEO, N.Y.—The new high-caffeine energy drink Cocaine has caught the attention of a professor in the State University of New York at Geneseo's School of Business, who is researching the ethical issues involved in the marketing of the drink.
Ian Alam, assistant professor of marketing at Geneseo, is concerned the drink—which contains 350 percent more caffeine than the leading energy drink Red Bull—is dangerous and being targeted to college students.
The controversial drink, which hit the U.S. market a few months ago, carries the tagline "the legal alternative" and comes in a red can with a white logo meant to resemble the powder drug. An 8.4-fluid ounce can of the drink contains 280 milligrams of caffeine, compared to 80 milligrams of caffeine in an 8.3-fluid ounce can of Red Bull. It does not contain the drug cocaine. The drink is produced by Redux Beverages, LLC, which is based in Valley Center, Ca., and registered in Las Vegas.
"The popularity of energy drinks is going up very fast," says Alam. "This whole train started with Mountain Dew. They came up with a very successful high-caffeine drink, and many companies have since improved on their model. Red Bull is probably the best and most well-known example of energy drinks on the market today."
"These drinks are largely targeted to college students, who use the drinks to stay awake at night in order to study or just have fun," says Alam.
Cocaine has a cherry, or fireball, taste and contains taurine, an amino acid important in making bile to aid digestion; guarana, a seed from South America that contains caffeine; dextrose; vitamin C; vitamins B-6 and B-12; and inositol. The drink contains 70 calories, and has only the necessary ingredients for the energy kick, which is advertised to last up to five hours. The sugar buzz is derived from the dextrose, a simple sugar that doesn't need to be broken down by the body, and a larger dose of vitamin B-12.
Alam is concerned college students and other consumers will forget about the health risks involved with consuming energy drinks when they are met with the clever marketing scheme of Cocaine. Such health risks include heart irregularities, nausea, vomiting and electrolyte disturbances. In addition, Alam says, energy drinks are particularly dangerous when consumed with alcohol.
Alam is conducting his research through focus group interviews with consumers and by talking to managers at other energy drink companies.
"The two main issues I am looking at in terms of ethics are the brand name and the ingredients," says Alam. "I want to find out what safeguards companies should take when marketing these types of products to college students."
"So far, the students that I have talked to in my focus groups feel very positive about the drink. The managers have a much different take, however. They say that naming the drink Cocaine is a poor marketing decision because it makes the industry look bad in the eyes of the government, who will likely start to focus on the implications the industry is having on our youth," says Alam.
Although Alam's research is still ongoing, he has formulated a strong opinion about Cocaine.
"It is obvious they need to change the name of the drink, as well as reduce the taurine content. The phrase 'legal alternative' also should be eliminated from the tagline completely," says Alam.
"The people behind Cocaine have a very clever marketing scheme. Everything needs to be unique in marketing. You have to break through the clutter of all the other marketing campaigns to be successful. This drink has certainly done that. Unfortunately, Cocaine is addictive to consumers. It has the ability to seriously impair consumers' judgment and have a bad effect on the health of those who drink it," says Alam.
According to the company's Web site, drinkcocaine.com, Cocaine is available in New York, California, New Jersey, Texas and Connecticut. In addition, it is available for purchase from several vendors on amazon.com. The drink is steadily becoming more popular and better recognized throughout the rest of the country. The company has a Cocaine tour bus that makes stops throughout the country. It has yet to stop in the Rochester area.
The energy drink has met some early challenges. The 7-Eleven convenient store operator recently told franchises not to stock it, and after its rollout in New York City in September, several small stores banned it. Australia also has banned the drink.
Alam is a resident of Brighton, N.Y., and has been teaching at SUNY Geneseo since 2001. This year, he received a Chancellor's Award for Excellence in Teaching. He received his bachelor's degree in commerce from the University of Calcutta in India in 1982, his Master of Business Administration from Aligarh University in India in 1985, his master's in business in marketing from Queensland University of Technology in Australia in 1995 and his doctorate in marketing from the University of Southern Queensland in Australia in marketing in 2000.
Anyone interested in talking with Alam about this product may contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org or (585) 245-5372.
Written by Joe Mignano, public relations intern in the Office of Communications and Publications.