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Energy Drinks - Marketing Genius

No matter what they
claim, energy drinks
won't make you do this

Good advertising is an amazing thing. It can make us talk, make us laugh and most importantly make us buy. Sometimes it can even make us do things, that when looked at rationally, appear completely crazy. Can you imagine what the first marketing company must have thought when they were told they were expected to sell energy drinks? Here's what I picture must have taken place.

Big Soda company and Big Advertising company are sitting around a meeting room table. Big Soda said they had a new drink they wanted to sell, there were just a couple of little problems they needed to deal with. The first was a name.

Big Soda wanted young people who didn't typically drink their stuff to buy this new product. The target audience was young men and women who thought Coke and Pepsi were boring. So they came up with brands like Amp, Full-Throttle and Monster. Rebellious names that hid their corporate connections.

AMP Amp is a PepsiCo product.

Full Throttle Full-Throttle is a Coca Cola product.

Monster Monster is owned by the Hansen Beverage company.

The next problem was the package. Everybody was too familiar with the traditional 12 oz. cans, and big plastic bottles didn't portray the upstart image they wanted. So someone decided it would be a great idea to put them in new smaller containers. Why sell a 12-ounce drink when you can sell less for more money?

Coca Cola A traditional can of Coca Cola is 12 oz.

Cocaine Cocaine comes in an 8.4 oz. container.

5 Hour Energy 5 Hour Energy is one of the smallest in a 2 oz. bottle.

With their brand and packaging ready, they now had to figure out what should go inside. Since they're energy drinks, many companies took the easy route. They simply packed them full of caffeine and sugar. A few didn't like the negative image the word caffeine gave, so they put in a berry called Guarana. Each little berry has twice the caffeine content of a coffee bean, but it has a more "natural" sounding name.

But highly caffeinated berries alone weren't going to cut it. So Big Soda started adding extra vitamins and minerals to make customers feel like it was more than just energy, it was something healthful.

Red Bull Red Bull puts in 250% of the recommended daily allowance (RDA) of vitamin B6.

Powerline The "Radical Energy" drink Powerline adds 1,660% the RDA of vitamin B12.

5 Hour Energy 5-hour Energy packs in an astonishing 8,333% the RDA of B12 in every tiny bottle.

One of the reasons people buy drinks is for the flavor. Who could forget the famous Pepsi Challenge comparing Pepsi and Coke side by side. Unfortunately, Big Advertising wouldn't be able to do that with the energy drinks because most of them tasted awful. This is what one reviewer said about 5-hour Energy:

"This stuff is freakin nasty...no way around it. If it was not for the fact it comes in a 2oz bottle, there would be no way I could have finished it off."

-Jason of EnergyDrinkReviews.com

Now all Big Soda and Big Advertising companies had to do was sell a LOT of this stuff to an unsuspecting public before the bad news started to leak out. Side effects like seizures, nervousness, irritability, sleeplessness, increased urination, abnormal heart rhythms, decreased bone levels, stroke, stomach upset and even DEATH. Some energy drinks were linked to seizures and Red Bull was banned in France in 2001 when a basketball player died after drinking only four cans.

The American public went crazy. In 2010 energy drink sales are expected to top 10 BILLION dollars. My hope is that if you're reading this column, you're smarter than the average consumer. You see energy drinks for what they really are: Tiny bottles, full of vile tasting liquids, crammed with dangerous amounts of sugar, caffeine, vitamins and sold for prices much higher than traditional sodas.

Spread the word.

UPDATE: The American Association of Poison Control Centers started tracking energy drink overdoses and side effects nationwide. In the first 45 days of 2011, there were 331 cases reported!

The medical journal Pediatrics Concludes:

Energy drinks have no therapeutic benefit, and many ingredients are understudied and not regulated. The known and unknown pharmacology of agents included in such drinks, combined with reports of toxicity, raises concern for potentially serious adverse effects in association with energy-drink use.

UPDATE 5/19/2016:

It's official. Researchers have now demonstrated that energy drinks raise blood pressure and can heighten the risk for stroke and sudden cardiac death.

On March 3rd, 2016, Researcher Sachin A. Shah, presented the results of a study on energy drinks at the meeting of the American Heart Association in Phoenix, Arizona. Shah stated that, "Our findings suggest certain energy drinks may increase the risk of having an abnormal heart rhythm when consumed in high volumes, While we wait for more data, some consumers should exercise caution and not blindly follow the buzz."

The clinical trial was conducted by researchers from University of the Pacific and David Grant Medical Center.

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UPDATED 2/14/2011
UPDATED 5/19/2016