Dec. 8, 2009 It’s Tuesday, time for our weekly “Packaging Boyhood” focus, so what better time than the holiday season to sound the ‘red’ siren on the ‘green’ brand that tween and teen boys are sucking up to…Monster energy drink.
With everything from motocross and macho madness to the thumping, screaming, ‘over the top’ rebel yell, Monster ‘packs a vicious punch’ by creating lil’ monsters out of the male middle-school set without a clue (or a care) as to the impact of the jolt and crash ‘kick ass flavor’ to their adolescent bods.
Wow. I feel like I got a testosterone infusion just reading the freakin’ label, “when it’s time to unleash the beast within, grab a Monster and GO BIG!’
Gotta say, it’s been fun counter-marketing the sheer absurdity of the entire energy drink category based on the hyped up, gender specific packaging alone. (not just ‘Monster, Monster Hitman, & Monster Sniper’ but Full Throttle, Red Bull, and other spiky, thuggish, ‘tough guise’ contrasts to the myriad pink think thinspiration cues of energy drinks like RockStar for the girls) It’s so predictably stereotyped that it’s almost amusing, and easy to see into the ‘crystal ball’ of the future and be able to tell kids what to watch for in advance. (video after the jump of what’s got my dander up)
Awhile back we even played a media literacy game to come up with ‘where will they go next?’
They’ve already used the ‘band of brothers’ military inclusiveness and fraternal bond of loyalty to ‘join the Monster Army’ online and soldier themselves through the ranks of worthiness to ‘rid himself of fear,’ prove his bravery in extreme sports, and ‘declare war on the ordinary.’ ack.
Wanna know what’s ordinary to me?
The fact that profits are once again being put ahead of kids’ physical health, and the mental health messages delivered…
The “big bad Monster buzz” the ‘thrill of the kill’ concept, not to mention the scantily clad objectified ‘Monster Girls’ doing quite a number on boys’ heads on what girls are ‘good for’ in faux femme 3rd wave tackiness a la the Axe ‘Bomchickawawa girls.’
It IS rewarding however, when teens have those ‘aha moments’ of understanding the body logic, nutritional uh-ohs, caffeine’s impact on kids and cardiac cocktails of alcohol mixed into energy drinks, (either intentionally or via consumption due to market confusion)…but it’s a really delicate balance imparting the ‘persuasive tools’ used because KIDS need to have the discovery themselves.
YOU, adult humans, (as advice slinger ‘Hey Josh!’ calls us) cannot (must not!) connect the dots…You can only ‘show and tell’ up to a point…youth need to (and will!) take it from there.
Example…After I’d mentioned that the number of male energy drinkers has been explosive (Packaging Boyhood authors update my data, citing about 64% in the past five years according to Beverage Marketing Corp with sales expected to top $9 billion in three years) my question to the kids:
… “Where are energy drinks headed?” was met with shout-outs like, “to the bank” and “to Disneyland” and other endearing witticisms that literally could’ve sprung from the pages of Packaging Boyhood as ‘archetypes’ in the ‘class clown’ category…
One boy yelled, “Shooters!”
And the conversation went something like this:
Amy: Good one. Ok. Gun? Game? Or gullet?
Boy: “huh? What d’you mean? What’s a gullet?”
Amy: Let me try again…What do you mean by ‘shooters?’ Tell me more…
Boy: You know…SHOOTERS….like poppers. Shots. You slam it. (11 year old makes a bottoms up motion, slams hand on table)
Bingo. Just like espresso is a compact version of coffee, energy ‘shots’ have seen a $560 million surge in the last year over “flattening” sales of energy drinks…with people wanting a ‘quick fix’ to fatigue and such fast. The visuals he gave me reinforced that he knows a ‘shot’ when he sees one, from the bar room banter…which feeds right into the lexicon of marketing ‘ubercool’ to kids via grownup land. (even the BK Burger Shots have this positioning)
Monster’s ‘paid to party’ pitch for their “Monster girls” epitomizes the ‘aspirational’ teenybopper style that typifies energy drinks as the gateway mixer with alcohol…or as the authors write in the Packaging Boyhood ‘Wanna Play’ chapter, “Beer and Babes: The Man Law” it’s pretty hard to see “Xtreme” sports without either energy drinks or beer close at hand.
Since soda sales are finally slumping a tad, and energy drinks are reaching a plateau, it’s no secret brands have been amping up the hype with new ploys to expand market share (ahem, the iPhone app “AMP up before you score” w/its collection of ‘types’ of women in ‘trading card’ mode met an early demise due to backlash)…
But really, folks…
…Must Monster make ‘monsters’ out of young boys targeting them with rowdy, racing, cursing, peeing, stunt driving studliness to turn them into 15-year old wannabe party animals to boost sales? I think we know the $560 million answer.
Here’s the video sample, below…now where’s the backlash? What about the boys? Any DAD bloggers want to weigh in here on the messaging to your sons?
Ron Mattocks has got a great post up over on his blog, ‘Clark Kent’s Lunchbox’ about manhood and what it all means, featuring The Good Men Project “real stories from the front lines of modern manhood”…Yesterday he also ran a great review of Packaging Boyhood so perhaps HE could weigh in on this Monster muck. Moms? Youth marketers? Are we numb to how it’s all landing on boys? Even Verizon’s new Droid campaign smacks of a similar narrowcasting, stereotyped vibe…
Is this the new shoulder shrug acceptance? Should I count to ten before the trolls start to power-zing my blog with foul-laced epithets about why I need to ‘get laid’ and ‘get a life’ instead of sounding off that this short-sighted marketing style is trashing kids’ psyches…
A little accountability on the persuasion behavioral model please, people? (visual at left, BJ Fogg; Stanford’s Persuasive Technology Lab)
And fergawdsakes don’t give me the line about how they’re ‘really targeting adults not kids’ with this message. Yeppers. Just like the BK Squarebutts creepy King…It’s adults Monster is after. Yup. You betcha. The Camel Orbs nicotine strips with the teen girl in the ad too…same deal. Uh-huh. She was just a prop. The ad was for adult users. And the pink cigarettes too. They were NOT going after ingénues. No way. And the alcopops and the…
….Feel free to keep the list going in the comments below.
Each commenter (or tweet) will be entered to win a copy of Packaging Boyhood, as we’ll be giving out three copies before the year’s end. Trolls, please behave…don’t be monsters.
Shaping Youth’s toxic Tuesday pick of the week worthy of inclusion in Packaging Boyhood:
Energy Drink Snapshot (non-alcoholic)
Energy Drink Snapshot (alcoholic or mixed)
- Marin Institute Commends New FDA Probe (November 2009)
- FDA Requests Proof of Safety of Alcoholic Energy Drinks (November 2009)
- Attorneys General Investigate New Alcoholic Energy Drinks (August 2009)
- News/Liability: Officials Target Alcoholic Energy Drink Ads (29 Attorneys General)
Shaping Youth’s Energy Drink Articles by Amy Jussel (tons of embedded data links)
For others interested in alcohol marketing masquerading as pop, Marin Institute is a wealth of information on these ‘alcopop’ tactics, complete with an advocacy lever to take action, and youth orgs that take charge.