How Drunk Are You? There's an App for That

Alcohol Marketers Partner With Smartphone Breathalyzer

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Would you pay $99 to always know exactly how drunk you are?

A startup called Alcohoot is betting that consumers will shell out that kind of money for a device that converts a smartphone into a personal breathalyzer. While similar products are on the market, Alcohoot is hoping to generate some, um, buzz, through a new partnership with liquor giant Pernod Ricard USA, whose brands include Absolut, Jameson and Malibu.

The deal includes co-promotional and sales activities. For instance, Pernod's "Wise Drinking" smartphone app -- which is designed to promote responsible consumption with features like a drink counter -- has added a link to Alcohoot's app. The app works in conjunction with the plug-in device to provide a measurement of a person's blood-alcohol content, as well as other analytics. Pernod will also distribute Alcohoot devices to its employees in the U.S., Brazil, Canada and Mexico. In another deal, Heineken USA distributed the devices to its employees, who have promoted them to beer distributors.

The deals are meant to position New York City-based Alcohoot as a lifestyle brand, said Ben Biron, the company's co-founder and chief marketing officer. Breathalyzers are often identified in a negative way, associated with police and authority, he said. While Alcohoot's mission is to reduce drunk-driving accidents, the brand also wants to make itself "part of the fun of the night," he added. "We thought the perfect partners for that would be alcohol brands."

Bryan Fry, president-CEO of Pernod Ricard USA said in a statement that "Alcohoot engages people and has the potential to change behavior" and is "totally in line with Pernod Ricard's strong sense of ethics and our overall commitment to fight against irresponsible consumption of our products."

The $99 device, which plugs into a phone's headphone jack, is available for sale on the company's web site and on Amazon.com. The device uses "police-grade" fuel cell sensor technology, according to Alcohoot. (But the app includes a disclaimer stating that it should not be used to "determine whether you should operate a motor vehicle or equipment or perform any other dangerous act.") The company is in negotiations for distribution at national retail accounts, including drug stores and electronics stores, Mr. Biron said. Marketing has included Facebook ads.

The app, which is free, includes a feature called "Smartline" that allows users to set their desired blood alcohol content level, or BAC, before a night out. Then, the morning after a night out, users can take a "Morning Quiz" to describe how they feel. If a person feels lousy, the app might suggest next time setting a lower BAC target.

But doesn't this just duplicate what drinkers intuitively know already? Mr. Biron countered that "one of the things that alcohol does to you is it makes you feel like you are good, when you are not." Alcohoot seeks to depict the phenomenon in the digital video above that includes Pernod Ricard branding.

Mr. Biron, 25, and co-founder Jonathan Ofir met during a stint in the Israeli Defense Forces. They were inspired to create Alcohoot after learning that the number of soldier deaths from drunk driving surpassed combat deaths, according to the company.

Of course, another way to avoid drinking and driving is to have booze delivered directly to your house. And there's an app for that too: Drizly, which promises "fast, convenient alcohol delivery" this week added Los Angeles service to its existing markets of New York, Boston and Chicago. The company, which just secured $4.8 million in seed funding, says it offers more than 2,500 wine, beer and spirits products through its network of retail partners.

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