A DRINK CALLED Red Bull (“a headache in every can”) has been pulled off the shelves in several places, after an allegation that a molecule of cocaine was found in, under, or in the same street as a container of the stuff. Distraught company bosses are writing to newspapers to assure customers that the drink is fine.
Guys: relax. This is what I call a Jackpot Disaster. It may technically be bad news but in practice it’s the best thing that can happen. You see, Red Bull has spent millions promoting the stuff as a mind-blowing energy potion (“It gives you wings” is the slogan).
But in truth there are no unusual, life-altering substances in it. I tried it. After two cans, I was hyperactive, tense, fidgety and uncontrollable. In other words, no change.
The list of ingredients revealed why it had no effect on me. It was just a sweet fizzy drink with a caffeine level halfway between Coca-Cola and a double espresso.
A rumour that there might be a trace of something naughty in it is what it desperately needs to make it attractive to its target market, which is young people who stay up all night studying (“partying”) at halls of learning (“halls of partying”).
But one thing puzzled me. It tasted suspiciously familiar. A colleague said it was a straight copy of Krating Daeng, a drink served in small bottles in Thai massage parlours to keep the up the spirits (or something) of male customers. But this columnist is way too smart (as in “terrified”) to consume mysterious substances in Thai massage parlours.
I took one more sip and realized what it was. Red Bull is just a repackaged half-strength version of Livita, a Japanese drink sold in a little brown bottle all around Asia for at least 30 years. This was yet more proof that Asia makes great products but is incapable of marketing them. A 90-year-old Asian woman drinking Livita could flatten Arnold Schwarzenegger on Red Bull. But after the cocaine allegation, Livita can never catch up.
The concept of the Jackpot Disaster is well worth studying. This column recently told the tale of Kidz Bop, a children’s CD which was of minimal interest to its target market—until naughty words were found on it.
Lindsay Lohan, also known as Britney Spears and Paris Hilton, was a run-of-the-mill performer until she lost control of her personal life and became the world’s most-watched celebrity.
There are many boring people in Asia who are desperately in need of a Jackpot Disaster. Here are three proposed news items about people whose images would benefit from the right sort of problem – the Perfect Scandal, if you like.
1) “It was revealed last night that Chinese President Hu Jintao has full-body tattoos under his clothes.”
2) “Singapore was yesterday exposed as the kinky porn capital of the world.”
See what I mean? If not, have a couple of cans of Livita and read this post again. It will miraculously make sense.
Substance abuse. You can’t beat it.