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Rudy Giuliani is now hawking his own coffee line, but celebrity branding is a risky business

By Charles Passy

The former New York mayor-turned-Donald Trump attorney has launched Rudy Coffee. Marketing experts weigh in on his chance to succeed.

Can Rudy Giuliani beat Kim Kardashian, George Clooney and dozens of other boldface names at their own celebrity-branding game?

The former New York City mayor-turned-attorney for Donald Trump has introduced a coffee line - Rudy Coffee - saying in a video posted on X that "if I put my name on something, I truly believe in it."

The coffee, which is being sold online for $29.99 per 2-lb. bag, comes in three varieties: "bold," "morning" and decaffeinated. Giuliani said that the brew is organic and has a "smooth" and "rich" flavor.

"It's so good, I even recommend drinking it black," he added in the video.

Even if the java is as top-notch as Giuliani promises, the embattled former politician, who is facing both legal and financial challenges, could be in for a tough road ahead.

Many celebrities are behind brands, from booze labels to perfumes. And some succeed at such ventures. Clooney's tequila brand, Casamigos, was sold for about $1 billion to spirits giant Diageo (DEO) in 2017, while Kardashian's Skims shapewear line has been valued at $4 billion.

But other celebrity product launches fail to garner much attention after the initial rollout. Just look at Trump, Giuliani's most famous client: While the former president has enjoyed plenty of buzz when it comes to his new line of sneakers, who remembers the short-lived Trump Vodka?

Marketing experts say it all comes down to whether the public perceives a celebrity brand to be authentic or simply a cash grab.

"Consumers are savvy. They can tell when a celebrity is genuinely invested in the product," said Craig Agranoff, a Florida-based marketing professional.

Plus, Agranoff said Giuliani will have to contend with the fact that for all the support he enjoys, especially via Trump and his dedicated base, he also has his fair share of detractors because of the Trump connection.

To say nothing of the fact that Giuliani is entering a very crowded specialty coffee market, including several other java brands with celebrity connections. To say nothing of a behemoth like Starbucks (SBUX).

"I just can't see how somebody would say, 'Forget Starbucks. I'm getting Rudy Coffee,'" Agranoff said.

In spite of all that, Allen Adamson, co-founder of Metaforce, a marketing collective, said Giuliani may still have a chance to succeed with his coffee venture. That's because Giuliani's supporters are likely to be very loyal and, well, supportive, Adamson explained.

"It doesn't matter how many they are. What matters most is their passion," Adamson said.

It also helps that Giuliani is selling a relatively affordable product, even if his coffee brand is priced higher than many others, Adamson said. The point is that a $30 bag of coffee is more within reach than Trump's sneakers, which run up to $399.

Giuliani may need to sell a lot of java to offset his financial woes. He has debts totalling $153 million, including $148 million owed to former Georgia election workers as a result of a defamation case he lost. He declared bankruptcy last year.

Giuliani couldn't be reached for comment. But Dr. Maria Ryan, Giuliani's friend and business partner, denied that the need for money was the motive for the coffee venture.

"His unfortunate financial situation due to lawfare isn't the reason for launching Rudy Coffee," Ryan told MarketWatch.

Instead, Ryan said Giuliani is a genuine coffee connoisseur, noting that "he began researching coffee, coffee grinders and coffee machines" above five years ago.

"He called himself a 'barista!' He enjoyed mixing different coffee beans, creating a unique blend of coffee," Ryan added.

Ryan said Rudy Coffee was created in collaboration with Burke Brands, a Miami-based coffee roaster. And she said she stands by the brews that Rudy Coffee has introduced.

"I am immensely proud of Rudy Coffee in general, but the decaf coffee is spectacular," she said.

-Charles Passy

This content was created by MarketWatch, which is operated by Dow Jones & Co. MarketWatch is published independently from Dow Jones Newswires and The Wall Street Journal.


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05-25-24 1250ET

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