Jul 13, 2009

Red Bull

It's commonplace for people to visit Thailand, for a variety of reasons. One visitor in 1982 was Dietrich Mateschitz, a European toothpaste marketing chap. He found that a local potion called Krating Daeng - most likely found lying in the mini-bar in his room, it's purpose probably explained by the person at the hotel's reception desk - was very effective in curing his jet-lag. He decided to take it to Western consumers. Since a 100ml medicinal-looking bottle full of strange-and-very-sweet tasting syrup wasn't likely to find too many takers, he diluted the drink to 250ml, carbonated it, and put it in a smart-looking can.

Cut to Shanghai, 2009. A Formula 1 race has just ended. The well-known and very glamorous names of Ferrari, McLaren and Williams are conspicuous by their absence on the podium. At the top of the podium stands one of the most brilliant young talents of F1, tipped by many to be the rightful heir to Schumacher's throne. The camera focuses on him. On his jacket, you read 'Red Bull... Gives You Wings'.

I feel the story of the Red Bull brand MUST be made a case study in every B-School.

Coca-Cola was the undisputed leader in the soft drinks market some decades back. It's still the leading cola brand, but still a cola brand. Facing a significant threat by the way of a growing health-consciousness trend across the world.

Sony is a leading electronics brand, but no longer associated with ground-breaking innovations (think Walkman) - that position is now owned by Apple.

Xerox is a photocopy brand. Tommy Hilfiger is a fashion brand.
Honda and Toyota are efficient and reliable Japanese cars.

Red Bull... gives you wings. It's not just a brand. It's about energy, about endurance, about passion. It's the quickest car on an F1 circuit today. It's a brave new world of music - SoundClash. It's an adventure race from Salzburg to Monaco, featuring some of the world's top paragliders and endurance sports specialists. It's the Air Race World Championship. It's a Mediterranean food festival. It's a a 600 square meter creative hub for musicians, artists and photographers in the middle of the red-light district in the Dutch capital of Amsterdam. It's a way of life, and it's here to stay.

How did some-guy manage to make all this out of a diluted, carbonated version of a cheap Thai syrup? It wasn't a fairytale. They first tried to market it the traditional way.
1. Free samples were offered to people. A terrible idea, considering the not-so-pleasant taste of Red Bull. And a small sample obviously won't relieve you of all physical and metal exhaustion - which was the whole point.
2. They advertised on TV. For one, this medium is expensive and too cluttered to be really effective in Red Bull's case. Secondly, even if some people became curious, TV doesn't lead to action immediately. And where'd they find the damn thing, anyway?

It was probably after all this, that someone realized the brand needed a strong, unique, appealing and holistic identity, supported by prominence on the shelves where their targets shopped. And since they were offering something unique and truly useful, they could charge 6-10 times what the drink originally cost in the land of it's origin. The rest, as they say, is history.

If this doesn't deserve to be a case study in a school of marketing, I don't know what does.

1 comment:

  1. Anonymous9:40 PM

    Good blog, mate! Keep up the good work!