Rockstar Energy Drinks – Product Line Filling

AG Barr – the parent company behind drinks such as Irn Bru, Tizer and Rockstar energy drinks – has recently announced the launch of ‘Rockstar Pink’.  This is supposed to be the first energy drink on the market that specifically targets female consumers.  They have segmented this market as the health-conscious  female who requires an energy kick; hence, the product contains only 10 calories, zero sugar and  smaller can size.  It also comes with a straw, according to the firm’s website, that means girls’ lipstick will not get smudged.  This form of market penetration is known as ‘product line filling’, where the depth of their product portfolio is increased by offering consumers greater variety.  Although AG Barr plans to use extreme sports sponsor ship and sampling at sports events, I am pessimistic that the drink will be a success.

Albeit they have identified an untapped niche in the market,  I believe they are still being too broad in their targeting.  They are attempting to target the product for sports and for nightlife usage – occasional segmentation should focus on one occasion and one occasion only, such as Coca-Cola’s recent repositioning.  The risk is that by attempting to appeal as both a sports product and for leisure use, Rockstar Pink becomes positioned by consumers as unsuitable for neither occasion.  If you look at the width of Lucozade’s product range, which has had a far greater market dominance, you can see the  differentiation between Lucozade ‘Original’ and ‘Sport’.  I feel a much more appropriate strategy would be to focus purely on recreational usage and compete with mixed-drinks in nightclubs by positioning the product as a healthier alternative to vodka and Red Bull/Coke.

Another potential pit-fall, I believe, could be the packaging of the product.  While this is seemingly straight-forward: take an ordinary can, make it smaller and then make it pink, it is integral to competing with other products at the point-of-purchase and portraying the benefits of the product.  On the one hand, the pink colouring makes the product stand-out.  But does it really reflect the core purpose of the drink?  It does not look healthy at all – the intense colour is synonymous ‘artificial colouring’.  In contrast, the sugar-free version of  ‘Rockstar Original’, below, looks much more healthier and cleaner.  All the pink colouring does is show who the company intends to sell to – this eliminates any male consumers, who may also be health-conscious.

However, I guess the included straw does have at least one benefit to females wearing lipstick.  The problem?  Avoiding lipstick smudges is the wrong benefit!  Females taking part in sports or clubbing – the firm’s targeted occasions – are not going to care about their lipstick.

The last issue with ‘Rockstar Pink’ is common to all product line filling decisions:  cannibalisation.  This is when the launch of a new product simply replaces the sales of existing products with the new products.  If you take a look at the Rockstar product line, there are at least three products that could witness a decline in sales as females shift to ‘Rockstar Pink’: ‘Sugar Free’, ‘Zero Carb and ‘Roasted Light Vanilla’.  And we are assuming here that the product is successful, which I am highly sceptical of.  Moreover, their already extensive product range makes failure even more likely.  This is because they essentially already have products that offer the same benefits that the new drink offers; they even come in smaller sizes than ‘Pink’s’ standard 12oz can.

It seems to me as if AG Barr have broken a fundamental rule of branding.  Namely, they being too broad in defining who their core customer is.  This results in a product that appeals to no one for using during no particular occasion.  In such a mature and competitive market, there is a right time and reason for each product; by trying to be the right product for several occasions and reasons you always end up being second-best.

© Joshua Blatchford, author of Manifested Marketing 30/05/2011


I also want to mention that the official domain for the blog is now

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