Do Energy Drink Companies Target Kids with Online Marketing?

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Whether a person has a relationship with energy drinks says a lot about that person. I use the word “relationship” because Red Bull, Monster and the like tend to develop romances with their consumers. Is it the high caffeine content or the weird vitamin smell that turns seemingly normal people into junkies? Who knows, but whatever it is, energy drinks have this power over their devotees who soon either become ashamed spouses who know their relationship with Red Bull is wrong but they just can’t stop or brazen energy drink guzzlers who pound the funky-smelling stuff not caring if it burns a hole in their stomachs or makes their heads explode.

So now, a decade or so after being introduced to the marketplace, the American Academy of Pediatrics has come out with a scathing report that not only recommends that children never consume energy drinks but also scolds the beverage industry for marketing the drinks to young people. If you read that sentence and then said “duh” — well, that would be the appropriate response. Of course these things are horrible and naturally beverage makers are marketing them to children. This is the same song and dance liquor and cigarettes have been doing for the past 100 years.

Red Bull officials, however, say they do not target kids in their ads. In a statement, the company who uses animation in its television spots said, “We do not market our product to children and other caffeine-sensitive people.” Well, I have no doubt that the company does not mean to look as though it is intentionally marketing to children, but that isn’t to say its product isn’t appealing to them. Red Bull has become a master of online branding and social media marketing. The company hits its 18-and-up demographic while “unintentionally” looking cool to the tween set, too. The Red Bull Soap Box Racer game, for example, features build-it-yourself custom racers and is available to friends who like the brand on Facebook. While it may not have been designed for my 12-year-old nephew, it definitely is the kind of thing he would find cool.

But Red Bull isn’t alone when it comes to youth-tinged marketing. (Check out Coca-Cola’s new interactive boxes for further proof.) Again, none of this is surprising and the allegations will most likely have very little impact on the sales of energy drinks. Besides, Red Bull, like every other brand, is trying to develop relationships with buyers regardless of what age they are.

So let’s turn it over to you, dear readers. Are energy drinks the new cigarettes when it comes to marketing? Let us know in the comments section below!

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