Archive for the 'Pseudo Brands' Category

Cocaine hits the street for users

Sunday, October 29th, 2006

It’s a buzz! No, it’s a bust!!

It’s coke in a can, otherwise known as Cocaine, the new pulse pounding caffeine drink.

Well, to be honest, there’s no actual “coke” in there. And no Coke® either, despite the looks of the can.

Buzz for sale

What the folks behind Cocaine are selling is buzz, and lots of it. First you can it, and then you spray it out of the can, with as much controversy as possible.

Cocaine has already drawn the ire of NY Mayor Michael Boomberg. And it’s been banned from 7-Eleven. Not to worry, though. That seems like part of its strategy.

Cracking the market

Since the best cocaine nickname was already taken, I guess Cocaine’s founders decided to go for the whole brick. To my eye, the “Coca” part of the name seems to have a slight prominence.

At any rate, the following seems to be the marketing plan:

  1. Load each 8.4 oz. can with 280 mg of caffeine (vs 80 mg in Red Bull).
  2. Add cayenne pepper
  3. Style the Cocaine mark as if written in cocaine powder
  4. Call imbibing the drink, “doing cocaine”
  5. Launch the drink at runway parties to glamorize its association with the drug culture of whacked out fashion
  6. Attack critical press as “liberal media”
  7. Position the drink (via clever framing) as “not a controlled substance”
  8. Launch the drink just before a national election, thereby gaining immediate condemnation from vote-hungry politicians, and tons of additional publicity. This will result in massive street cred with teens and twenty somethings, who think all politicians are bogus, and who happen to be Cocaine’s target market.
  9. Cultivate the identity of the honest but misunderstood outlaw, constantly threatened by figures of authority. Embrace persecution.
  10. Be (almost) impossible to find. Hint that you may soon be driven underground, or even banned (like the . . . cough . . . real stuff.)

Isn’t the Cocaine label just harmless fun?

Some might feel that the ruckus over the Cocaine label is misplaced. Why not just treat Cocaine on the same level as Opium, the perfume? The Opium name connotes exotic danger, obsession and adventure. It’s harmless fun: the brand as fictional device, a consensual illusion. No one protests that.

Cocaine seems quite different, though. First, Cocaine promises users a chemical high from ingestion. Second, it touts itself as “the legal alternative” to real cocaine, a powerful, addictive drug. That would make Cocaine a legal drug giving similar effects. Opium perfume doesn’t promise drug-induced euphoria. The question then becomes, “Do we want the target market for this product to seek such drug effects, and a concomitant drug culture as a context for their lives?”

Is Cocaine a brand, or a pseudo brand?

Authenticity issues aside, does Cocaine qualify as a brand? I don’t think so. Brands don’t play the customer for a fool, and Cocaine is certainly fooling.

Cocaine looks more like a pseudo brand to me. From our New Brand Glossary:

Pseudo Brands

Brands that aren’t. Pseudo brands go through the usual motions of brands—an eye-grabbing logo, pumped up personality, lofty vows, zippy tagline and media splash—but do nothing to advance customers, or a company’s ties to them.

Personally, I wouldn’t be surprised if Cocaine stemmed from a bar bet over who could use standard marketing tactics to sell the most outrageous product to the most vulnerable customer class.


Cocaine site
Energy Fiend
(taste test and review)
Cocaine MySpace site

Photo: Cocaine.