Monster Energy is building a militia and is calling on its troops-not soldiers, but customers-to fill the reserves.
The company isn't going to war; it's creating momentum for its line of energy drinks using its Web 2.0 online community, www.monsterarmy.com. The Monster Army site aims to create a direct connection to the Monster Energy brand to keep it top of mind by weaving it into customers' lifestyles. The site provides a forum for currently more than 1,000 professional athletes (called generals) in action, endurance, and motor sports categories, to self-promote through blogs. It also offers online contests and videos of "generals" appearing at Monster-sponsored sporting events.
The initiative, initially a contest meant to collect Monster Energy drinkers' demographic information through a grassroots outreach campaign in stores, has evolved into an online community that so far has attracted 58,000 registered users (soldiers) to take part in the brand-building program. These reserves consist of amateur sports enthusiasts vying at chances to be recognized and promoted by Monster as the next best athlete in their sport. Soldiers can post photos, announcements, and news about their performances, which Monster Energy reviews to find the next best athlete.
"The initial initiative was to ultimately look for the future world championin the sports realm; to find the next amateur to break through to the pro level. It kind of turned into something a little different," says John Lee, director of sports marketing for Monster Energy.
The initiative started as a gimmicky promotional campaign and transformed into an interactive consumer-based branding program that leverages valuable customer data. The way it works is the company advertises the community at sporting events. When the soldiers join the site, they can partake in all that the community offers-interacting with the professional athletes, posting photos of themselves playing their sports, downloading music, or sharing news and updates about the action sports world.
Monster then leverages the site as a focus group. "We can market to the amateurs to come to events. And it's a way to test products, send news, and gain information," Lee explains. For example, the company recently launched Monster Java, a coffee-flavored energy drink, and asked the soldiers in its monthly Monster Mission newsletter to post their thoughts about the new product.
Scott Tilton, president and CEO of Loop'd, which created and manages the site, says that many brands are getting more comfortable with reaching out and opening themselves up to social media. "Eighteen months ago brands didn't know what to do with social media," he says. "It worked out for [Monster] and it created a vibe and buzz."
The buzz is growing louder. Since starting the army, the site has generated a half million page reads and the average time spent on the site totals seven minutes. "It's really evolving into a great platform to create a huge database in the demographic that we are working to sell toward," Lee adds. "We've gained 58,000 loyal consumers that ultimately feel like they're part of our family. That's the biggest return on investment right there."