Cocaine Energy Drink Gets A Real Buzz Going

Parents don't like it and politicians are protesting it, but that's only helped to speed up sales of Cocaine Energy Drink. The brand, which bills itself as "The Legal Alternative," has sold its entire inventory since launching in New York and California two weeks ago.

Its marketing expenditures to date: less than $40.

"Our entire marketing and promotional investment in the launch was $37.50," says Jamey Kirby, senior partner and founder of Redux Beverages, Las Vegas, which launched the controversial brand Sept. 9 during Fashion Week in New York "That's what we paid a courier to deliver a case to the New York Post."

Sales--and worldwide media publicity--took off after the newspaper wrote a story about the brand, which has none of the illegal substance but more caffeine than a Starbucks Grande coffee and 350 percent more than Red Bull, No. 1 in the $8 billion category. Available in New York and California, Cocaine Energy Drink will be sold on and through its own Web site within the next 10 days. Kirby says distribution in clubs and retail stores will be nationwide by year's end.



"We knew it would be controversial. That was the marketing plan, because young adults and teens love controversy," says Kirby. "Every time someone is on TV saying to boycott our product, the e-mails flood in asking 'Where can I buy this drink?' Negative media is doing more for us than any marketing could ever do."

The brand's Web 6.7 million hits from Sept. 17-23--so many that its Internet service provider had to shut it down three times to upgrade capacity.

Redux has no plans to beef up its marketing budget to sustain momentum, but it is considering a proposition from Vivendi Universal to sponsor the launch of an upcoming video game version of the cocaine-themed movie "Scarface".

"This is not a category that is big in ad spending," said Tom Vierhile, director of Datamonitor's Productscan database, which monitors new products. "These products are all word-of-mouth. That's why the category is so accepting of new brands."

So far this year, according to Datamonitor, the energy drink category has seen 203 new products through Sept. 25, and 342 in 2005. In 2000, 119 new products entered the category.

Many of these brands are sold online, at clubs or in convenience stores. According to ACNielsen, sales of energy drinks grew 63 percent in convenience stores alone, to $2.8 billion for the 52 weeks ended Sept. 9.

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