Chapter 9: Marketing Research
Bull, Monster, Rockstar, and AMP. As such, this twenty-something generation was a primary
target market for Four Loko. These energy drink consumers could go away to college and
consume their energy drinks in conjunction with alcohol—premixed—and get drunk quickly and
According to health experts, ingesting caffeine with 12 percent alcohol can lead to a heart attack,
especially for someone fatigued or with a cardiac condition. The alcoholic energy drink could
lead to high blood pressure and arrhythmia. Four Loko gained national attention in the fall of
2010 when nine university freshmen, ranging in age from 17 to 19, were hospitalized with blood-
alcohol levels from 0.12 percent to 0.35 percent (a blood-alcohol concentration of 0.30 percent is
considered potentially lethal). One of the nine students almost died. All nine had consumed Four
Loko in conjunction with drinking vodka, rum, and beer.
In response to the panic around the safety of Four Loko, law makers in numerous states began
lobbying for legislation prohibiting the product and universities across the nation banned the
drink from campus. In the state of Washington, an emergency ban was put into effect, with the
product pulled from store shelves almost immediately.
In a statement released by Phusion Projects, the company noted that it marketed its products
responsibly to those of legal drinking age and shared the concerns of college administrators
about underage drinking and abuse of alcoholic beverages. However, the company held strongly
to its belief that combining caffeine and alcohol was safe and provided examples such as Irish
coffees and rum and cola. Plus, anyone could mix vodka and an energy drink such as Red Bull.
In support of Phusion Projects, some commentators expressed concern over the apparent panic
surrounding the consumption of alcohol and caffeine and, in particular, Four Loko. It was noted
that the publicity surrounding Four Loko was probably one of the best forms of advertising—that
is, politicians jumped on the ban-Four-Loko bandwagon, which resulted in a lot of press for a
product targeted to hedonistic young people that then prompted more and more young people to
sample the product.
Sources: Phusion Projects, www.phusionprojects.com; Shannon Dininny, “Four Loko Sickened
Several Central Washington University Students,” Huffington Post, October 25, 2010; Mike
Hughlett, “Caffeinated Alcohol Drinks Stir up Legal Concerns,” Chicago Tribune, August 24,
drinks-alcoholic; Giselle Phelps, “College Students Going Loco for Four Loko Drink,” October
22, 2010; Noah Rosenberg, “Maker Halts Distribution of Alcoholic Energy Drink,” New York
Times, November 14, 2010, www.nytimes.com/2010/11/15/nyregion/15loko.html; Jacob Sullum,