When people think of the energy drink category, they typically think of Red Bull, Monster, and Rockstar. To a broader extent, consumers also consider Nos and Xyience. All of these companies have had to build their brand from the ground up, with very little leverage in the first place. How would the product’s success change if they had some brand equity they could leverage? We encounter such a case with Hard Rock Energy, an energy drink licensed through Hard Rock International – the themed restaurant chain with rock and roll memorabilia – to market the beverage.
BevWire recently connected with David Drow and Brent Campbell for an interview. David Drow is the Chief Executive Officer and Brent Campbell is the Chief Operational Officer of Enterprise Beverage Group, the licensees for the Hard Rock Energy brand of energy drinks. What initially was “5 Questions” spiraled into many subsequent questions as BevWire wanted to learn more about the business aspects of Hard Rock Energy. The below is the first “5 Questions” interview with David Drow. We will be covering the brand’s market differentiation, choice of test markets, and expansion plans. Next week, BevWire’s interview with Hard Rock Energy will touch on marketing tactics, test market results, and David’s views on growth opportunities as well as growth barriers.
BevWire: What differentiates Hard Rock Energy from other energy drinks on the market like Red Bull and Monster?
David Drow: When designing the flavor profile, we tried to formulate a product that could be identified as an energy drink, but have a more pleasant taste. Also, the can graphics prominently display the iconic Hard Rock logo. At 100mg of caffeine per serving, we have about 25% more caffeine than our major competition. Our original product is pale blue in color, is slightly sweeter than Red Bull and not as syrupy as Monster. The carbonation is slightly less than both major brands as well. Our Paradise Punch has a tropical fruit flavor. It is pleasant to drink on its own or as a mixer in “adult” beverages. The Sugar free has 6 calories per serving, no color additives (the liquid is clear) and we use Sucralose as the sweetener.
BW: Hard Rock Energy is currently available in the regional test markets of Chicago and Florida, what do these two test markets have in common?
DD: Both Chicago and Miami (South Florida) markets have substantial population bases and have Hard Rock branded properties. The Chicago market is really a snapshot of America at large. They have a big city life, but Midwest culture and values. Miami (S. Florida) has international flair and culture. It makes for a good international test without leaving the US.
BW: How soon would international (Canadian) expansion appear on the Hard Rock Energy radar? And if it’s not international expansion, what are some other test markets that you are planning to enter?
DD: Upon completion of the two test markets, we intend to seek approval for international expansion to coincide with our continued domestic expansion. Canada is certainly on the radar for expansion. On the continued domestic expansion front, we will continue to expand into all major US markets and have personnel presence in each market area. Internationally, we are working with co-manufacturing partners to develop products and distribution. The Pan Pacific region looks attractive, as does most of the European market.
BW: How has Hard Rock International’s equity helped leverage growth so far, and how do you plan on leveraging this equity for future growth?
DD: Distribution and acceptance at major retail are the lifeblood of consumer products. The introduction of any new product encounters intense scrutiny before distributors and retailers will take a product. The Hard Rock brand has opened doors that would be closed to most new products. Overseas production will play a big part of future growth. We also intend to utilize the Hard Rock properties for events and promotions. What better way to support the brand, then to send people to Hard Rock venues all over the globe?
BW: Beyond the Original, Sugar Free, and Paradise Punch flavors, is Hard Rock Energy exploring other flavor extensions?
DD: While we will be looking at line and flavor extensions, we feel that we really need to focus on these three products to create product awareness in the category.
Certainly a great first “5 Questions” session with David Drow. It shows that taste is one of the most critical defining attributes of the product. Even with a strong lifestyle brand in Hard Rock International, Hard Rock Energy is building the product’s awareness and momentum the right way, through representative test markets. Tune in next week for the second part of my interview, where we explore David’s views on growth potential and challenges, marketing tactics.
Thank you David for spending the time to answering the questions, and Brent for arranging the interview!