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Published on April 13th, 2010

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Blog: Monster Energy – taking it to extremes

The Glucose/ energy drink UK market grew to £567M in 2009 – a growth of 7%. Whilst Red Bull is still far and away the sector leader, relative new comers Relentless and Monster have accounted for a 58% growth in the category.

In just two years, US owned Monster Energy has made a big impact on the UK market. Driven by ex Red Bull marketer Guy Carling, the brand is taking on all comers in this bitterly competitive sector, fighting the hearts and minds of the 18 – 40 year old men.

Of the ‘big three’, Monster is certainly the most aggressive in terms of imagery, endorsements and brand ambassadors. From the ‘M-claw’ logo to the ‘Loading Crap’ status bar on the US brand home page, Monster exudes a no-hold barred approach.

It’s main point of difference in brand behavior is it’s embrace of the extreme. From it’s embrace of the hard rock/ metal counter culture, the Monster Girls (‘Wild, Boisterous, Rebellious & Scandalous …changing their lifestyle to live the Monster brand – they dance, drink & party till dawn’), the obligatory extreme sports sponsorships and artist promotional partnerships. Monster has carved out a niche for itself that neither Red Bull nor Coca Cola owned Relentless could occupy. Monster is striving to build through grass roots credibility and acceptance from these niche cultural communities. And it seems to be working. Over 1 million fans on Facebook, versus Red Bull at 2.5 million (and that’s just the Red Bull brand site – there are seemingly hundreds of other project/ country sites with healthy communities) and Relentless at a measly 14,000 Facebook fans.

Monster is clearly pitching itself as the energy drink that identifies with the communities who live sports, music and everyday life to the extreme. This is encapsulated in the ‘Monster Army’ – a grass roots recruiting ground for budding extreme sports ‘Soldiers’ and brand advocates, giving them closer access to the brand and the chance to get recognized (and possibly sponsored) by the brand ‘Generals’. A very neat, motivating access point for the brand that works on many different levels.

Whilst activity in the motorsports and extreme sports worlds is focused on branded events and athlete endorsements, Monster is a brand that really comes into it’s own in music arena – particularly the live market.

For example, we loved the ‘Monster Army Camp’ installation at Sonisphere UK in 2009. Activity featuring the Ball Of Steel Stunt Show, a high energy performance featuring three motorcycle riders free styling inside a 14ft steel globe set to the Monster Sound System. By night, the stunt area was transformed into a outdoor club surrounded by tanks. The set proved a welcome addition to the fabric of the festival to the thousands of revellers who were still partying under the watchtowers at 3am. We’re looking forward to seeing what experiential work the brand develops on the 2010 festival circuit.

Tactical music partnerships with major artists such as Slash and Linkin Park are the promotional cornerstone to the brand music activity with low level support also being offered in territory to artists such as the UK’s Glamour of the Kill.

Monster is has also made tentative moves into larger, global sports sponsorships – such as the branding on F1 World Champion Jenson Button’s helmet in his winning season. But this activity, although playing to a global audience outside the US – doesn’t feel right to us.

Monster is capitalising on it’s position as challenger brand, occupying the counter culture space. The key to growth is retaining it’s edginess and applying it to other sports or cultural movements. It can generate more traction and cut through if it moves beyond the cluttered extreme sports market and seeks out new creative territory to apply it’s extreme formula. It should never leave extreme sports – just not rely on it too much to tell it’s story to a challenging audience.



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