The Four Most Offensive Examples of Monster Branding
Last week, Middlebury College banned energy drinks from its campus, citing health concerns and links to problem behaviors. A few days later, a new study showed that energy drinks raise blood pressure and cause irregular heartbeats, increasing the risk of stroke and cardiac arrest. (A November 2015 study had similar findings.)
Last month, Morgan & Morgan filed a series of high-profile lawsuits against Monster, vowing more to come. Our subsequent petition to change the way energy drink companies market and sell to children has already amassed nearly 3,000 signatures.
But through all the lawsuits and bans and damning studies, energy drink companies remain stunningly unapologetic. Business is booming, to the point that these companies seem to thrive on their products' dangerous reputations. No such thing as bad publicity, right?
One thing seems clear: the energy drink industry takes a twisted pride in threatening people’s health. For proof, look no further than the following examples of totally offensive Monster Energy copy.
1. "Killer Energy Brew"
In a callous slap in the face to the families of Anais Fournier, Alex Morris, Shane Felts, and other caffeine casualties, Monster still promotes its signature drink as a “killer energy brew.” It’s also “a wicked mega hit that delivers twice the buzz of a regular energy drink.”
At least 11 deaths have been linked to Monster Energy in recent years, and that’s just in the U.S. The company still throws around the word “killer” with a truly loathsome disregard for these 11 people and their families. A quick sweep of the Monster website unearths "killer combos," "killer punch flavor," "a killer mix," and a Rehab Tea that is "killin' it." This kind of insensitive branding isn’t just cruel: given Monster’s pending litigation, it’s also lethally stupid.
2. "Pound Down" & "Tear Into"
“MONSTER packs a vicious punch,” the Monster site reads, “but has a smooth flavor you can really pound down.” The company regularly encourages its scary-young target demo to “tear into” a can and “pound it down.” These cans come as large as 32 ounces (see: the BFC, whose copy reads, “wimps, health nuts and busybodies need not apply”), and they aren’t resealable. Monster, then, encourages kids as young as 12 to chug a 16, 24, or 32-ounce can in one sitting, before it goes flat. That’s 160-320 mg of caffeine—four-to-nine times as much as a can of Coke. On developing bodies with a lower tolerance for caffeine, these drinks really do pack a vicious punch—one that could land them in the hospital.
3. “Tried & True Energy Blend”
In countless product descriptions, Monster boasts of its “tried & true energy blend,” implying health benefits for which there is no scientific basis. Dr. Kathleen Miller, a research scientist with over 30 publications to her name, says that contrary to Monster’s claim, “research on energy drinks is still in its early stages.” Dr. Miller continues, “There is definitely some concern about the potential interaction of caffeine with various plant/herbal extracts, particularly since those don’t fall under the jurisdiction of the FDA and therefore are quite poorly understood… There’s really no research yet on the long-term effects.” “Tried and true”? More like dubious and disconcerting.
4. “Monster Army”
Okay, this one’s just creepy. The Monster Army is an “athlete development program that supports athletes ages 13-21 in moto, bike, skate, surf, snow, ski and wake.” (Adding to the skeeve factor: one of the prerequisites for enlisting is “AT LEAST 3 Photos.”) Why only recruit athletes aged 13-21? Because Monster (among others) is notorious for targeting children with its marketing. In the energy drink industry, a minor isn’t someone under 18: it’s someone under 12. Like Big Tobacco before them, these companies aim to stockpile loyal, lifelong consumers of their toxic products. Sponsoring and deifying young athletes is one of the most effective—and exploitive—ways to get Monster cans in kids' hands.