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Charlie Sheen's Winning Position
By: Andrew Davis
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"I'm tired of pretending I'm not a total bitchin' rock star from Mars," Charlie Sheen told The Today Show. "I'm gonna live my life the way I want. I'm gonna win inside every moment." It's easy to dismiss Sheen as a hurricane of unchecked, frenetic "passion" (that's what he calls it). It's even easier to laugh-off Sheen's assertion that he's "winning."
 
But, is he right?
 
With the start of his "Tiger Blood Tour," popping from The Today Show to Howard Stern to Good Morning America, Sheen doesn't seem to be hindered at all by his ruckus and destructive recent history. Drugs. Alcohol. Porn stars. Strippers. What could be a lifetime of vice for some is a single night for Sheen. Yet, his celebrity star is burning brighter than it has in more than a decade. The hashtag #tigerblood, a reference to Sheen's comments that he has tiger blood coursing through his veins, is trending on Twitter. He's overshadowed every other celebrity in the news just days after the Oscars. And, people can't stop talking about him.
 
Charlie Sheen has gone viral, and in the process served as an interesting case study for how negative behavior can reinforce a brand. 
 
A fundamental rule in establishing a brand is selecting a single concept or word that you, alone, own. It's the "idea" that pops into the mind of the consumer whenever they think of your brand. Thanks to his latest shenanigans, Sheen owns the "Hollywood rock star" image. 
 
He's positioned himself as the Four Loko of Hollywood. Four Loko is a malt liquor energy drink produced by Chicago-based, Phusion Projects LLC. It was originally launched in 2005, but up until last year, it was just another obscure alcoholic beverage. Then, people started dying. Lawmakers across the United States rushed to ban the drink in their state. As a result of the coast-to-coast press, Four Loko was rocketed into the mainstream and quickly established itself as the "rock star" of alcoholic beverages. 
 
Four Loko's demise was not because of a tainted brand. Had it remained on the shelves, there is no doubt that the drink would have become an absolute powerhouse. But, legislative pressure forced Phusion Projects, and makers of similar drinks, to alter their formula in order to dilute the strength. The same lessons apply to Sheen. 
 
As long as he continues to show up for work, hit his marks, and not kill anybody (yeah, I'm talking about you, Robert Blake), his brand as a Hollywood rock star will continue to gain strength, and offers will pour in. Of course, this is all easier said than done. Look at Lindsay Lohan. Lohan's "bad girl" persona started affecting her work, and her value tanked. Nobody wants a loser brand. 
 
However, Sheen seems confident he can keep it in control. "The only thing I'm addicted to right now is winning," he says. While his wild statements make it hard to believe that this public "meltdown" is a cleverly orchestrated re-branding strategy, he's crazy enough to give it a shot. It's a gamble few people or brands would ever dare to make.  
 
Then again, few people are Charlie Sheen, and that's the point.

   

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About the Author
Andrew Davis is a Charleston, SC-based creative services consultant to small businesses and non-profits. Follow him on Twitter here.
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