AC/DC Brand Extension Rock-n-roll Style

wine lable design

What Next for Rock-n-roll’s Branding Rockstars?
Rock Gods AC/DC have long been a major export brand for Australia. With earnings of more than $100m p.a. AC/DC are second only to U2 when it comes to earning the big rock-n-roll bucks. But contra=y to their hard rockin’ image, AC/DC are also the masters of leveraging their brand for commercial gain. The latest in a long line of band brand extensions see the release last week of AC/DC wine.

The Rock and Roll Hall of Famers have collaborated with local wine makers Warburn Estate, to create this limited run of AC/DC wine. The varietals include “Back in Black” Shiraz, “Highway to Hell” Cabarnet Sauvignon, “Hells Bells” Savignon Blanc and “You Shook Me All Night Long” Moscato. The wines hit bottle shops around Australia last week and plan to be sold by supermarket brand Woolworths as well as BWS and Dan Murphy’s.

Good lord what next?

When it comes to Rock-n-roll, few bands leverage their brand more effectively in the commercial sense than AC/DC. These guys break all the rules of brand extension and appear to get away with it. For most brands, new or spin-off product are successful when they leverage the authenticity of the brand. The example of CAT workwear comes to mind – tough work boots and work gear that leverages off the tough working brand of CAT equipment. Typically, brands who develop new products and services that are not true to the master brand ethos find that any short term benefit gained by extra sales from new lines is over time dimished by the damage caused to the greater brand meaning. Sending any confusing or contradictory brand messages to the market will over time erode the valuable equity earned when a market clearly understands what a brand stands for.

Yet AC/DC continues to do just that. Wine being the latest example, but the band has a history of releasing all sorts of random brand paraphernalia in the name of merchandise or endorsed product. Yes plenty of AC/DC tragics enjoy a glass of wine, but that doesn’t mean the line extension is right for the band’s brand. Even more-so when it comes to a family board game like monopoly. Since when did the AC/DC brand have any synergy with wholesome family fun? I must have slept through that album.

The thing is for a band like AC/DC, they are not just any old brand. AC/DC have become a rock icon (in every sense of the over-used term). AC/DC fans love the band so-much they’re happy to have any sort of additional level of connection from Twitter to Monopoly, from music to muscat. The authenticity of the AC/DC brand communication comes from being who they are and doing what they do – and for a huge swathe of loyal fans the world over, that’s all that really counts in the end.

If only it were that simple for all brands.

Dave Ansett, Brandamentalist
Designer of Rock-star Brands

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  1. Looks like ACDC are trying to cash in, similar to what KISS has done in the past with promotional materials. Will be interesting to see how the wine sales go, good luck to them. You have to admit though, as naming for a type of wine goes, “Highway to Hell” Cabarnet Sauvignon is a ripper.

  2. Great post Dave. To me the ACDC are infallible. I can’t think of a product endorsement that could bring them down, except maybe retirement villages. Endorsements can be quite squeamish if not handled sensitively, but the ACDC brand seems to handle it where most can’t.

  3. Hi Tim, even though they seem to go a little off track with the brand extensions – these guys tend to keep some vein of brand personality running throughout. The wine names are a ripper example of that.

  4. I agree Ted, AC/DC seem to break the rules, but have such an indelible connection with their audience it just doesn’t matter. In many ways this is more of a merchandising strategy than a brand extension strategy. Taking that approach further another 20 years and maybe a chain of AC/DC retirement villages isn’t such a crazy idea.

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