02 Nov 12 Deaths allegedly linked to Monster Energy drinks are a PR nightmare
Allegations that its highly caffeinated drinks caused several deaths is a PR debacle for Monster Energy, which denies the claims. Can the company beat the bad press?
Every company’s worst nightmare just came true for Monster Energy: the FDA is claiming that five people may have died over the last three years after consuming Monster’s highly caffeinated drinks, and the mother of one of the apparent victims filed a lawsuit against Monster in mid October.
Monster’s way out of PR hell won’t be a walk in the park, public-relations experts agree. “Monster has to balance the very important need to make sure it says enough but doesn’t endanger its legal case, along with the need to guard its very important reputation,” says Lance Ignon, co-head of the New York office of prominent crisis management firm Sitrick And Company, which isn’t involved in the case. “It’s not easy at all.”
Corona, California–based Monster company is denying any connection to the death of 14-year-old Anais Fournier, who died from a cardiac arrhythmia after drinking two 24oz (710ml) cans of Monster over 48 hours. Monster, which is handling press via its external investor relations firm PondelWilkinson, issued a press release expressing sympathy for “the untimely passing of Anais Fournier.”
The company stated it “does not believe that its products are in any way responsible for the death of Ms Fournier,” and claimed that a 24oz can of Monster Energy contains 30 percent less caffeine than an average 16oz (473ml) cup of coffee.
But Monster’s reputation may have already begun to unravel: the company’s stock plummeted 16 percent after news of the lawsuit and FDA filings made headlines, and it continued to fall throughout the week.
The lawsuit was filed by Fournier’s mother, Wendy Crossland, after Crossland obtained the FDA records through the Freedom of Information Act. Crossland’s lawyer, Alexander R Wheeler, has said “his clients would like justice — and in our country justice means money.”
“There has to be a warning and full disclosure about the drinks’ dangers and what part of the population might be more vulnerable to having heart attacks or other heart problems,” he added, “instead of just pretending they’re safe and have no downsides.”
Sitrick’s Ignon says Monster’s damage-control apparatus has to act fast. “Monster has to demonstrate cooperation with the FDA,” he says, “and deny, and to the extent possible show, that the product does not cause harm, by enlisting data and having outside experts make that point.”…..