Red Bull – Marketing with Wings

Red Bull was initially launched as a small Austrian company to sell a product that was inspired from an Asian tonic – all of this at a time when energy drinks was a completely foreign concept to its customers. The company started with some discouraging first reactions and a general belief that there was no demand in the market for such a product (since there was no concept of energy drinks earlier). However looking back today, they succeeded to create a completely new market for their product and 30 years later they also manage to sustain as a major player in the market (with over 40% of the market share). This success is not attributed just to the quality of the drink that they invented but also to their ‘out of the box' marketing over the years. They clearly marked their primary (18 – 35 years old male and female with an active lifestyle) and secondary audience (35 – 65 years old male and female). Then they focused on marketing not just the ‘energy drink’ product but instead created a brand that embodied a distinct lifestyle and this generated its own audience.

Initial Stage – Guerrilla Marketing

Red Bull went guerilla to put its brand and its cans in the eyes and hands of its most likely drinkers: 18 to 34 years old males and females. This worked in subtle marketing (just enough to be perceived as edgy and grab eyeballs) but did not scream product placement. This helped especially during the initial days when the company was small and could not afford to sink huge amounts into flamboyant market communication channels. They started sampling the drink at college parties, bars, cafes, music festivals etc where their primary audience would hang out. While the company has grown bigger and uses a lot of other market communication channels today, you can still spot Red Bull sampling cans out at events. Recently, I managed to find a couple sampling Red Bull on the Chapman campus a few weeks ago.

Red Bull sampling on Chapman university campus, April 2019

Later Stage – Event Sponsorship and Leadership

Around the early 2010s, Red Bull started concentrating on increasing awareness amongst their secondary audience by sponsoring and leading events that embodied their brand of being active and living life on the edge. this they did by title sponsoring rave festivals and running other high energy events. One of their most successful such events was Red Bull Stratos – where they had Felix Baumgartner jump from the stratosphere, breaking the record for the highest ever jump and becoming the first ever person to break the sound barrier during freefall. This was a huge project and an even greater success story for the company because the athletes involved were in their 40s. By emotional engaging with their primary and secondary audience in one stroke, they further solidified the lifestyle that they tied to their brand and audiences.

Pilot Felix Baumgartner of Austria prepares to jump from the altitude of 29455 meters during the second manned test flight for Red Bull Stratos in Roswell, New Mexico, USA on July 25, 2012

Throughout their journey, Red Bull has relied less on traditional marketing and used innovative marketing communications channels that were structured to target the global markets that they were entering.