Just because you CAN... doesn't mean you should

When do you draw the line – and not do something just because you can?

Inside Redux Beverages, Secret Meeting:

“Everybody, we need an incredible name to launch this new beverage. It’s part soft drink, part energy drink. We need a name that is edgy, really out there, attention getting, way past the competition. We need to blow past Red Bull.”


Hours of brainstorming later…

“I’ve got it. Let’s call it COCAINE!”

“Wow – that is incredible. It says forbidden. Illegal. Celebrity caché. The drug of choice in Hollywood. It’s got everything. Mary, see if the web domain is available. If it is grab it. This is powerful, everybody. The media will love it. It will fly off the shelves.”

“Yeah. Legal cocaine. Every kid will want this.”

Inside Redux Beverages, Secret Meeting:

“Gather around everybody. This letter from the FDA says we are illegally marketing Cocaine as a street-drug alternative and food supplement. And they didn’t like our copy: Speed in a CanLiquid Cocaine, and Cocaine – instant rush. We have to pull it from the stores nationwide. It looks like they just didn’t get it.”

“So everybody in Distribution goes into high gear to handle the recall. Marketing and PR – you’’ll spend this week on damage control.

“The rest of you – we need a new name for the product – pronto. Now look. We need something edgy, out there, but maybe not with a drug connection.”

How could an idea that seemed so brilliant to a group of people one day become a total disaster – with threatened lawsuits, FDA action, a media storm, and outraged people across the country? What were they thinking?

Was their failure to anticipate the downside risks simply youth and inexperience? Was it a lack of time to adequately test the idea in their rush to get it to market first? Were they blinded by greed – or by adrenaline? Might it have been a failure to understand the world we live in – and simply not paying attention? Or was it just poor judgment?

Perhaps the reasons are all of these – and a few more. Perhaps Cocaine the soft drink got beyond the idea stage into consumer’s hands because we live in a world where innovation and creativity has become as intoxicating as the real cocaine. Perhaps the drive to be first and grab market share causes the same kind of self-absorption and poor judgment as the drug.

Yet ultimately – the most important issue of all may be: Just because we can – does that mean we should? In the end, good sense, discretion, and judgment need to be a part of the formula used to determine what moves forward and what does not – in branding, in marketing, and in business.

Back at the Redux Beverages Packaging Meeting:

“Hey, everybody, we’ve got a new name – Ecstacy. Design is working on it right now. Does anyone know if we can just put a new name sticker over the word Cocaine and put the bottles back on the shelf? Gladys, will you check that with the FDA?”

Re-posted from our archives