Friday, June 19, 2009

Rockstar Energy... A New Brand Facing An Old Challenge

Urban Legends 2009

Rockstar is a very successful business. It was at the forefront of the development of the energy drink segment; it good tasting products and a wide variety of flavors, and today Rockstar is the third largest energy brand in the US, and has begun to roll-out worldwide.

The brand is the brainchild of Russ Weiner, a Las Vegas resident he made its image that of a serious "party" product... hence the tag line "Party like a Rockstar", events at stripclubs & the Playboy mansion, and suggestive imagery on its website ( This makes the brand unsavory to some - but edgy and cool to some key energy consumers.

Sampling outfits that probably don't help with the activist community

Weiner is the son of notorious conservative talk show host Michael Savage. And that is where the problems start. Savage is now thought of as Rockstar's owner... leading to boycott calls from the activist community. See this website for an example of the spread of this rumor.

In the tradition of Snapple being owned by the KKK (a rumor driven by the Kosher certification on the bottle - and the rumor that the Boston Tea Party graphic on the label - was actually a slave ship), Rockstar is fighting a PR challenge of its own. An issue that may fatally hit the brand, disrupting its relationship with PBG - and with inherently conservative retailers.

In response, there is now a corporate "Truth about Rockstar" site, that addresses many of these issues and lists the charitable works of the owners. But the site does not link to the main Rockstar site.

The learning is that being edgy comes at a price.

While the rumors have not impeded the brand to date, they may become the story: When these stories get a life of their own the brand may struggle to recover. I wish them luck in shaking off these issues, but I think it will take more than a website and personal indignation.

Consumers are willing to believe the conspiratorial worst of corporations - Rockstar will have to arrest these rumors with actions.

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