Red Bull: A brand Built on Marketing

Photo by AntwerpenR

How a company with a single product manages to intimidate the Coca Cola Company.

With its unique product, Red Bull is the perfect example of a successful business development strategy. In twenty years the brand has certainly become a reference in terms of energy drinks but also in terms of marketing strategy.

Red Bull’s ambitious objective is to dethrone Coca-Cola. The two brands have the same advantage: they are the first product of their kind in their own markets, and so competitors can only try to imitate them. Red Bull was the first energy drink to be launched and has achieved today a clear market leading position with 4,204 billion cans sold worldwide in 2010, representing an increase of 7,6% against 2009.

The most dynamic markets, in terms of sales, are Turkey, Japan, Brazil and USA; which demonstrates that the brand is successful in both the developed and the developing world. Today Red Bull is a company present in 162 countries with the same, consistently strong brand image all around the world, and Red Bull ensures to retain the integrity of this image meticulously. However, if the brand has the same image worldwide, it does not mean that the methods used to conquer local markets are exactly the same everywhere. The company has known how to cleverly implement its strategy with local teams in each market.

Targeting the “Y Generation”, sick of all the classic marketing strategies, Red Bull is trying to be as close as possible to its consumers in its distribution strategy and likewise in its promotion strategy by having a ‘street marketing’ strategy. The “Wings Team’s” role is to establish a relationship with the consumers, to have them discover the product, to talk with them about this controversial product and to convey the information from the consumers to the company about their appreciation or dissatisfaction of the product. In most countries the wings are typically attractive female students; but of course there has to be some men because of worldwide cultural differences such as in the Middle East for example, where the patriarchal concept of a society prevails. The best way to be close to its consumers and to convince them is to hire them! The Student Brand Manager is an ambassador of the brand in their own school. Their objective is to be sure that Red Bull is present at every strategic moment in the student social calendar: integration week-end, sportive events, big parties etc… The strength of Red Bull is an ability to instill a genuine passion for the brand in the Wings Team and the Student Brand Managers. Thus, these committed people are more likely to promote a good image of the brand and to have a greater positive impact on targeted consumers. Well known physical evidence that will attest to this process is the Red Bull car: a Mini One with a can above it, painted with Red Bull colors. But in some countries this car doesn’t have the can on it.

Photo by Tobrouk

The brand speaks to this generation with a worldwide positioning: “Red Bull vitalizes body and mind” and its slogan is known by all: “Red Bull gives you wiiings.” The company is besides famous for its unusual methods of marketing. Since 1992, Red Bull has created cheap cartoons with simple but recognisable drawings, telling funny and simple stories, easily adaptable to every local market. Every year each subsidiary can choose some spots in the Red Bull cartoon data base according to the situation in their own current market. One of these spots is called “Pigeon 1” and has been imagined without any lyrics and thus, easily adaptable; it is the most awarded but also controversial spot of all the Red Bull campaign!

The Red Bull product has been widely criticised because of some ingredients like taurine. But this argument has only served to expand brand awareness further and has reinforced the reputation of the brand. Red Bull has indeed managed to create a real buzz through the utilization of its key marketing strategy, word of mouth, which works in every market all around the world. In some countries the target consumer segment began to adopt nicknames for the product such as “liquid cocaine”. The banning of the product in the French market until 2008, for example, has totally empowered the brand which has entered the market by capturing French people’s imagination on its first day by blocking the Champs Elysées in Paris, having Red Bull cars all over the city and an athlete riding some buildings in La Défense.

Red Bull wants to be seen has a high quality product and the company is therefore particularly strict regarding its image and pricing policy. Regarding price, Red Bull is indeed more expensive than its competitors, but the company has still 70% market share. For instance, in what Red Bull called the “ON” sector, which applies to restaurants, cafés, hotels, pubs and night clubs, every beverage served with Red Bull has to be sold at a specific price determined in advance by Red Bull’s sales manager of the country. Furthermore, Red Bull has a rule regarding the way to serve consumers: the “perfect serve”. Barmen are expected to fill the glass with Red Bull and to give the can with the rest of the Red Bull to the client. The objective is to create visibility for the product in the bar. Besides fashion, trendy bars and night clubs, Red Bull wants to be present in every store, even the smaller ones, in order to be as close to the consumer as possible. Most of the time, the product is of course sold in every super- and hypermarket, yet in the United States for instance, Red Bull has entered the market by asking for exclusivity to small retailers. In France, Red Bull has had considerable success in gas stations thanks to drivers, who are also important consumers. Like Coca-Cola, the company has managed to infiltrate every channel of distribution worldwide, even in the “OFF” sector, which applies for places where the product is sold to be drunk later, where the primary aim is setting up advertising in every POS (point of sales) to be as visible as possible.

Away from localised marketed adaptation, Red Bull looks to standarise its marketing strategy and advertising and image through communication in extreme sports, as this is consistent worldwide. Red Bull’s innovative communication strategy aims to invest massively (15% of its turnover every year) in sponsoring athletes and even entire teams in specific sports which offer dramatic shows and which are watched all over the planet. This is an expensive strategy but results thus far suggest it is a worthwhile endeavor. Its two main competitors are: the Coca Cola Company and Monster; which are distributed in France using many of th saaem distribution channels and points of sale.

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