Red Bull was founded in 1987 in Fuschl am See, Austria by Dietrich Materschitz. His inspiration for the company can be attributed to Krating Daeng – a popular energy drink of Thailand that is mostly consumed by blue collar workers. Mateschitz developed a formula for the beverage and created a differentiation strategy, repositioning the brand as a premium product while developing an action sports lifestyle marketing campaign. Red Bull didn’t develop a new product but rather created a new product category.
In 1992 Red Bull expanded into international markets that included Hungary and Slovenia. Red Bull entered the United States in 1997, when it became available only in California. In the year 2000, the company expanded into the Middle East. Today Red Bull is available in 171 countries and over 68 billion cans of Red Bull have been consumed so far. Financial information remains confidential as the company’s majority stake remains privately held by the Mateschitz family. This rapid international expansion was not driven by pure luck or brilliant marketing strategy through traditional channels, it was built on top of a successful global social media advertising campaign.
The first right move adopted by the company was securing presence across all social media platforms. This ensured that the company could communicate with different audiences and amplify the potential reach of its brand. However, the company went further into realizing that there were different groups of customers with similar interest within each platform. Therefore, Red Bull decided to secure multiple pages and accounts across all platforms, so it could tailor specific content for different niches inside its broad customer audience. For instance, the company has pages on Facebook named “Red Bull”, “Red Bull Adventure”, “Red Bull Snow”, “Red Bull Music”, and so on. Similarly, the company owns different YouTube channels such as “Red Bull Music & Culture”, “Red Bull Surfing”, “Red Bull Motorsports”, etc.
Securing its presence in different social media channels could ensure that the company could potentially reach different customers and creating different pages for each niche helped to build relevant and engaging content tailored to them. However, Red Bull’s biggest success should be heavily attributed to understanding its main customer segment right from the start. Red Bull started as an energy drink company but soon acknowledged that its main consumers were not energy drink enthusiasts or tired people looking for a spike on energy, but rather artistically driven persons with an active lifestyle and young individuals within the action sports arena. Therefore, Red Bull started releasing “complementary” products to support this brand positioning, and today has a wide range of products that extend outside the beverage space. The company has Red Bull TV, Red Bulletin, endorsed athletes, and hosts several globally recognizable sport and entertainment events. Red Bull has been effective with their marketing efforts in creating a community around the brand. This helps create a statement around what your brand actually stands for and it is a huge advantage when creating content for its audience on social media. For example, Red Bull is present on the skateboarding niche through its Instagram account, @redbullskate, and could easily relate to amateur skateboarders that love to see the skateboarding content and end-up relating the amount of adrenaline and energy that seems to be present on the posts to drinking the Red Bull energy drink.
Red Bull is always providing content that people would like to speak about, share with their friends, and engage in social media. This was the case of the Red Bull Stratos Project, a space diving project involving Austrian skydiver Felix Baumgartner parachuting to Earth from the stratosphere. With over 4.5 million views in only one of the company’s YouTube channels, the video of this project went viral worldwide, gathering enough attention for the project, the Red Bull brand and, consequently, for the energy drink products that had their sales rising.
In summary, Red Bull is way more than just an energy drink company or even more than just an energy drink and radical sports event company. Red Bull is a marketing powerhouse on steroids. The company understand its main audience and knows how to build special content for them both on the digital and real world. With a huge team dedicated only to the company’ social media efforts, Red Bull seems to understand the pros and cons of each platform and how to best leverage them to its interests. This was undoubtedly a crucial factor in the global success of the Red Bull brand, today seen as a radical sports and energy drink company.