Today, if you were asked to pick a symbol for young and adventurous, what would it be?
We did not do a survey, but in all likelyhood it would be the red bulls colliding horns.
Redbull though was incorporated way back in 1987!!
So why did it take such a phenomenon so many years to take off? How was humble Krating Daeng cloned into a far cooler western avatar? How did it turn into everything that is quintessentially youth? How did it sneak under the radar of the Cokes and Pepsis of the world? Were the strategies that are now Ivy League case studies part of the grand plan to make a serious dent in the beverage market? How do they do it with a single product!?
Here’s opening the can on Redbull –
If one was to simplify the success of Redbull it would be attributed to building a category (energy drinks). The “how” of it was however the tougher challenge that needed a deliberate hand.
Indeed, with its high caffeine content, it was the discovery of dance hall junkies in Europe, yes, it did became the perfect agent to mix with vodka as an antidote to early morning party exhaustion. It was also under such patronage that Red Bull made it to, and began dominating, the world market.
But an accident it was not.
So to understand what Red Bull did and continues to do, we must analyse the value chain right to the consumer because in case of Redbull, or for that matter any lifestyle brand, the consumer is very integral to adding value.
1. The PRODUCT – Redbull is a tasty (suitably adapted to the western taste) high caffeine drink that you get in a good looking can that does not look like Coke and is not a cuppa so consuming it on the dance floor is neither juvenile nor inconvenient, and if you’re seen getting it splashed onto your Grey Goose everyone knows “you’re gonna hit that floor rather hard”. It was however discovered as a quick fix for Jet Lag Lesson – Find out what lies beneath.
2. Go To Market – After spending 3 years (1984-87) developing the drink and its container, when the founder Austrian Dietrich Mateschitz had to launch the product he chose a market he knew rather well, his own. Next stop was Germany another market he was familiar with, considering he was deputed in Germany (while he was an executive with P&G) from where he made his travel plans to discovery.
Being successful in familiar markets they ventured to where they belonged – America!! (in 1997). They started with California (where else) where they built a distribution network from scratch, for 1 product!
Red Bull associated itself with the nascent extreme sports movement. The company sponsored snowboarding and free-skiing contests and Flugtag, a homemade flying machine challenge.
Red Bull also entered the gaming industry. In 2008, they were the first advertisers on Playstation’s virtual world. Playing an online version of the “Red Bull Air Race”, users interacted and shared their experiences.
3. Go to Mind –
Revitalize the mind summed up the positioning strategy adopted by Red Bull. The idea was, Red Bull to be consumed whenever anyone needed a lift, whenever.
They built aspiration by engaging top of the adrenaline pyramid athletes. So, as a tired white collar guy, at the end of the day, you’d think “well if it works for a top of the game surfer or a motocross athlete, it could easily make the rest of my working hours tick faster.”
The other knob they screwed in as part of their youth marketing strategy was to make their presence felt at high octane dance floors. The promise of further endurance at clubbing, gave it a special appeal amongst young people with an insatiable appetite for the juices on the dance floor.
The Los Angeles Times reported that the beverage appeared to glow green under the fluorescent light of nightclubs. (Note to self – Try that). The drink became a very popular mixer, especially with vodka. Amongst other things, Red Bull deepened its involvement with the club scene by sponsoring a month-long school for deejays in New York City called the Red Bull Music Academy.
But Red Bull didn’t want to be a fashionable substitute for tonic water, it wanted to be the drink that was downed whenever anyone needed wings. Marketing for Red Bull has never been something they did to the youth, but something they did with them.
Traditional advertising was limited, as the company focused heavily on getting product samples into the right hands – THE ADHDed.
4. Going for the Beachheads among the ADHDed
Beachheads (the right hands) are small groups of tightly defined consumers a brand can use as a springboard to a wider market. Redbull uses them as evangelists. By focussing on them Redbull focusses on a share of customer over market share. Redbull engages a consumer niche through value communication, partnership marketing and crowd sourcing.
As clichéd as it might sound its only true, they did not sell an energy drink they sold a lifestyle.
Before we get to what makes these specific hands right here are a couple of anecdotes of first Redbull experiences –
“One of my rich mates first told me about Redbull being a great mixer. I conveniently ignored it as spoilt brat talk. But then during one of the college fests in Pune a couple of rather pretty girls came up to me and offered me the drink. FOR FREE, believe you me – the premium INR 75 a pop drink for FREE. Ofcourse I hustled and got a few more cans but that was that. Then this really close friend who subscribed to Overdrive (the magazine) passed me a complimentary CD he got with one edition. It was a musical documentary of the various adventure events Redbull had been sponsoring around the world. I was hooked to that 30 min video, still have it. Redbull of course left a very pleasant after taste.”
“I was working backstage on the production of The MTV Europe Music Awards, & we were sent over cases of Red Bull. It kept us going. On the night of the awards when we continued to toil backstage it was what we were all drinking. We stocked the fridge in our production office with Red Bull and word soon got round the backstage village that we had some. It wasn’t an official drink of the awards, no deal had been done with MTV, it was there ‘under the radar’. But bands and crew came to our fridge asking if they could take a can.”
The core understanding that Redbull had about Beachheads was that their’s was an “experience” culture. They do not want to be told (via tell a tale advertising) what to like or what to do. They wanna feel it. So what were these high adrenaline experience points –
The Obvious –
• Concerts -– Festivals
• Video games and video game competitions
• Extreme sporting events (skateboarding, snowboarding, BMX)
• Hiking events (They love the outdoors)
The Not so obvious –
• Volunteer Work
• Tattoo parlors
Keywords – exciting, borderline dangerous, creative.
Red Bulls embarks on campaigns which are direct in nature when it comes to the consumers:
• Media content for all sponsored sports
• Profiles for each sponsored athlete with accompanying media content
• Monthly newsletter: “Red Bulletin”
• Hosting sporting and music events around the world
• University Brand Managers
They have a proactive approach, running multiple campaigns via events (primarily) supported ably by successful adoption of social media.
“Red Bull doesn’t have any of the commercial trappings of a traditional, off-the-shelf product. It’s underground, even when it’s above ground, and that appeals to the young people who drink it.” @FastComapny
“For Red Bull , if they don’t create the market, it doesn’t exist”.
The dominant energy-drink brand, Red Bull has chosen to stick with its four product beverage line, resisting branching out into similar areas such as energy bars or other sports-related products. Couple this with company’s clever and effective marketing strategy unique down to the present day. But what happens in the future. How long will they be able to sustain their winning ways?
They should not give up on its success but keep on building upon promotional campaigns on innovating single events like buying the F1 Jaguar Racing team. By doing so Red Bull got its logo emblazoned on four racing cars, got numerous hours of airtime in the 19 circuit season. Winning doesn’t hurt either.One would imagine that even if it didn’t win, they’ll ask their drivers to at least bring in some dare devilry. The advantage Red Bull has here is that the audience for Red Bull is very vast compared to say a Ferrari. Beyond Cars, engines, and Michael Schumacher there isnt much for the Italians. But in the case of Red Bull – there lies a lifestyle choice.
(Ad)Venturing against Competition:
Since Red Bull positioned itself as a functional drink, it has competition in every market. Direct competition in the form of Monster and Rockstar as the main players, then there are the private labels at retail chains. More potent though is the indirect competition from other beverage behemoths, companies like Coca-Cola and Pepsi with thier portfolio of sport drinks. It will boil down to how long Redbull can hold that extremely unique position in the mind.
RedBull’s Indian cartwheel :
The brand came to India in 2003. As the market is not very mature yet, it has been keeping a low profile studying it slowly ever since. It has however successfully introduced the category to a small segment of the Indian market.
Red Bull has been relatively mellow when it comes to the Indian Market. Even though one does find them at interesting events on and off they have also used the traditional medium of TV & Print, uniquely to send their points across.
Due to its growing association with alcohol and partying, Red Bull has acquired the reputation as an over-the-counter liquid narcotic. But the more Red Bull is associated with danger, the more its popularity grows. Appealing again only to a small urban section.
With India boasting the highest number of 20-24-year-olds, it would seem like the ideal market for Red Bull to penetrate into, but through what mediums or avenues can they reach out to their target audience in India? Most importantly are they willing to bring down the extremely heavy premium they charge? At the current price point youngsters will only be hunting it for free.
Also, India doesnt really have a sports culture, let alone xtreme sports. Hence Redbull has 2 alternatives
1. To help create that culture (Create)
2. To adopt other adrenaline focussed events (Leverage)
Currently it has adopted the 2nd wherein the company either creates its own events like “Red Bull Music Academy” – gives wings to the different genres of music or they promote at other existing events, like college rockshows and fests.
We’d definitely like them to mix it heavily with creating a broader sports and adventure culture.
Initiatives such as the Red Bull Kart Fight are extremely welcome.
India acquiring an F1 weekend definitely paves the way for motor sports to really kick off in the country. Who better than Red Bull to keep the engine running.
What Red Bull did was in total contrast to what has been done before. By being creative, innovative and smart Red Bull has achieved so much more than just creating widespread global exposure for its brand. Red Bull is the ideal anti brand, still flying high with the wings it gives itself. Bravo!