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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

    Energy drinks: Taste the hype

    Ever think that you’d be able to walk into U-Mart and buy Cocaine with your CatCard? Well, soon you may be able to.

    But wait! This isn’t cocaine, the illegal drug. This Cocaine is an energy drink, and one that’s creating a serious buzz.

    It has exactly two selling points: the name that it entirely coincidentally shares with an addictive and illegal drug and a caffeine content supposedly more excessive than that of any other energy drink.

    In any case, this product has barely hit the shelves, and already people are going wild for it. In the week since it was released, its Web site received 6,738,165 hits.

    What is it about Cocaine that’s driving people nuts? Is it the caffeine? Is it the name?

    No, Cocaine is simply selling us exactly what we really want to buy, and that isn’t a can of caffeine that tastes like what you throw away after your chem lab. What we really want to buy is canned cool.

    To drink any energy drink is to say, “”Hey, I’m so wild and crazy, I stayed up so late last night that I need this in order to stay awake.”” It’s a $3 way of stating that we’re popular and busy and we were totally getting up to really fun things at 4 a.m. You think this isn’t what a product called, say, Rockstar is really selling?

    Of course, the caffeine content is also a tough-guy thing. We know it’s dangerous, that it causes cardiac arrhythmia. The more pulse-pumping gallons of caffeine, the tougher we think we are. Appropriately (or not), SoBe No Fear calls itself “”the toughest can on the shelf.””

    That leads us to the real genius of Cocaine’s marketing: Caffeine is a drug, and we know that. We like to play with the idea of getting high, getting a crash and getting addicted. We like the fact that caffeine is harmful, just as we like the idea that cigarettes and alcohol are harmful. Drinking energy drinks is our own “”live fast, die young”” – we say, “”I’ll sleep when I’m dead.””

    So calling an energy drink Cocaine was really brilliant. It represents the inevitable perfection of the formula of wild glamour, chemical danger and hypnotic drugginess that makes energy drinks as popular as they are today.

    And they sure are popular. In fact, energy drinks sales are skyrocketing. Energy drinks experienced a 54.3-percent increase in sales over last year. In one year, they brought in $535 million in sales.

    We paid $535 million last year for brightly-colored, extra-caffeinated sugar water.

    Think we buy energy drinks for only utilitarian purposes – just to stay awake? One beleaguered soul was spotted purchasing two different energy drinks at 10:30 p.m. in U-Mart. He explained that he had a midterm tomorrow, “”so I’ll have to spend the night at the ILC with these babies. They get you a little crazy, but at least you get the job done.”” It’s hard to imagine anyone describing cups of espresso – with equal caffeine content – as “”babies”” likely to “”get you crazy.””

    As college students, we, like the U-Mart guy, are at the heart of the demographic this marketing is aimed at. Example: according to Cocaine’s MySpace page (yes, really), Cocaine is a 20-year-old male (who lives in Las Vegas).

    And as college students, we, like the U-Mart guy, have bought the hype right along with the Red Bulls.

    Seriously, what’s so cool about Rockstar? What’s so menacing about Monster? What’s so illegal about Cocaine? Nothing. We’re drinking energy drinks to keep us awake through work or class. We’re staying up late at night, and most likely it’s not because we’re wild and crazy. It’s because we put off a paper, or we were watching TV or messing around on the Internet into the small hours. Is that rebellious? Is that unconventional?

    This marketing phenomenon simply demonstrates that we’ll go wild over something not particularly desirable in and of itself – energy drinks – by associating it with ideas and concepts we really do desire – unconventionality, sexiness and danger.

    In previous generations, our parents rebelled by burning their bras or staging protests. Now, we define ourselves and broadcast our radical chic by drinking the equivalent of several cups of coffee. How extreme.

    Lillie Kilburn is a sophomore majoring in psychology. She can be reached atletters@wildcat.arizona.edu

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