Rider Students Offer Monster Energy Some Ideas

After reviewing the problems facing Monster Beverage Corp (Nasdaq:MNST) following the filing of a wrongful death lawsuit by the parents of 14-year-old Anais Fournier and the subsequent announcement of an FDA investigation, my Rider University public relations class this past Tuesday examined immediate public relations steps and potential new strategies the Company could take to protect its brand and regain confidence from investors.

In our prior class we had discussed the various reasons why developing a positive consumer relations program was important to companies. The problems facing Monster Energy were discussed. The assignment I gave the students was to research what was being written and said about the Monster Energy case, examine how the company was responding, and survey their friends and family on their reactions and whether they used energy drinks like Monster Energy and whether this FDA investigation would have any impact on their continued use of the products.

Some of the personal findings by students were:
■ Matt described one person he knew that drank eight cans of Monster Energy in a 10 hour period and eventually developed bronchitis.
■ Caitlyn described how her 14-year-old brother, who is quite hyper, drinks Monster Energy on a regular basis.
■ Karly admitted to drinking 2-3 cans of Monster Energy each day and had no reservations about continuing to do so.
■ Allie indicated she has a friend who gets migraines from drinking Monster Energy and has told her that you can get seizures.
■ Ashley talked about her roommate who was hospitalized after drinking two cans of the product.

After exploring the personal findings of my class, we began the process of identifying what immediate steps Monster Beverage Corp could take to ensure that they could maintain public confidence in their products.

Some of the communications elements my class recommended were as follows:

Monster Beverage Corp should survey and poll its customer base to gauge their feelings on the issue. They should also poll their major distributors to gain a sense of what reaction these news stories are having on sales of Monster products.

Monster Beverage Corp should set up a Safety Hotline where consumers can receive information on the contents of the product and ask questions.

Monster Beverage Corp should provide a FAQ document outlining all of the ingredients, research and safety steps associated with their Monster Energy drinks and post it to the corporate and Monster Energy website as well as the Monster Energy Facebook page.

The company should actively step up all consumer engagement activities. This is the time to build and strengthen a dialogue with consumers.

As part of its consumer engagement, Monster Beverage Corp should seek out testimonials from consumers and use a free flowing Twitter feed for customers to post their thoughts.

The class also felt the company should offer discounts on its products and run promotions to build consumer satisfaction.

All of these suggestions were immediate steps that Monster Beverage Corp could take to reinforce consumer confidence and keep their share price from falling even further, after losing over 10% in share price in the first two days of the crisis this week.

What we also explored in class, was longer term strategies that Monster Beverage Corp could develop to achieve a goal of Reinforcing Consumer Confidence. Here were eight concepts proposed by the students.

1.Research – Monster Beverage Corp should put together a package of information which includes every piece of data and research the company has ever compiled on the ingredients, research and safety tests done on its products. This should be made available to the public on the company’s websites.

2.Age Restriction – The Company should consider taking a lead in the energy drink market and voluntarily set an age limit for its product use.

3.Health Labeling – While there is a warning on the Monster Energy cans regarding caffeine in the product, the class felt that Monster Beverage Corp is eventually going to have to consider stronger warnings on its labeling.

4.No Alcohol Mixing – Monster Beverage Corp should also take the lead in developing a campaign against the mixing of energy drinks and alcohol. The class suggested using the Monster Energy athletes to help drive such a campaign.

5.Safety Campaign – The class felt strongly that the Monster Energy athletes, such as their Motocross performers, should be used for a multi-tiered marketing campaign promoting the safe use of energy drinks like Monster Energy. Athlete images with safety messages could be used on the product cans, through video PSAs on the website and Facebook page and in advertising materials.

6.Smaller Cans – Monster Beverage Corp should consider producing a smaller version of its energy drink.

7.Health Advisory Board – Monster Beverage Corp should seek out leading health professionals, scientists, athletes, etc. to serve on a Health Advisory Board to lend counsel and suggestions to the development of energy drinks by the company.

8.Charity – Monster Beverage Corp should look to develop a relationship with a national charity that could be integrated in all of its in-store promotions, live events and online activities.

All of these suggestions came in the course on one 90-minute class discussion. Hopefully, Monster Beverage Corp is spending a lot more time on this subject. I’m sure their customers and shareholders are hopeful of this as well.

Tom Cosentino


One Response to “Rider Students Offer Monster Energy Some Ideas”

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