SPEED IN A CAN

THE RED BULL STORY
“It’s not what you do. It’s what they do with what you do.” — John Grant, The New Marketing Manifesto

“Don’t quit your day job!”
The market research results were devastating. The thin color of the new drink was totally unappetizing, the sticky mouth feel and taste were deemed ‘disgusting’. And the concept of ‘stimulates mind and body’ was –at best – rated irrelevant. The verdict by the research firm: “No other new product has ever failed this convincingly.”

Speed-In-A-Can The Red Bull Story

these were all non-corporate start-ups. Red Bull won’t score high in a lab situation. intended to provide a boost of energy.” reminisces Mateschitz today. to survive in a category where image rules. and not just be sold as an over-the-counter nutraceutical. He had tried to position Red Bull according to the tools he had learned at such companies as Unilever and Kraft. It was also the never-ending quarrels with the Austrian FDA to get the first energy drink approved in a European country. rather than one by the books. Red Bull needed to establish an attitude (vs. A first in the broader soft drink category to place no importance on taste • It created an ultra-premium price point – about 8 times higher than a Coke – with out any third party efficacy endorsement to justify the steep margin • It was a complex sales pitch to consumers. led by Johannes Kastner. and the fact that his friend and ad agency owner could not come up with a single good ad campaign idea during this entire time. Red Bull needed to be experienced. He had exited the corporate world exactly three years prior to the NPD research to import a new type of energy drink he discovered in Asia called Red Bull. Other than Red Bull. Red Bull belongs in the marketing hall of fame. they beat all odds and threw conventional marketing wisdom overboard to develop a new. And it was not just the destructive consumer reactions to his drink that would make his entrepreneurial career initially miserable. for instance). Alongside such enigmatic miracles as Hotmail. Palm. No wonder the concept had failed in a sterile environment of a research studio. No wonder his agency. finally serving the need for a legal. Multiple layers of storylines in a category of shallow and single-minded images What Mateschitz learned out of this invaluable research was how important context was to the success of Red Bull. But this was a disruptive product: • It established a new category. This retrospective may make the billion-dollar success of this single SKU sensation ever more captivating. Speed-In-A-Can The Red Bull Story . the former Managing Director of Leo Burnett’s German office. an image). The market research disaster may have been the epiphany for Mateschitz. driven by intuitive visionaries without classic marketing training. But on top. Which made it easier for them to develop a marketing plan that’s right. Another crucial lesson Mateschitz learned in the pre-planning years was the specific role advertising must play for such complex brands.2 But Dietrich Mateschitz was past the point of no return. yet ‘hip’ stimulant • Its taste sucked…to put it mildly (it gets a D+ from BevNet. if it wanted to reach significant scale. Just like Gatorade only worked in taste testing when participants were dehydrated and the Gatorade ice cold. It is at its core a functional drink. eBay or Starbucks. What makes Red Bull unique in this group of anomalies is its leader’s background in classic marketing. powerful go-to-market template. “They were the worst three years of my life.

Red Bull needs to be experienced within the right context.even before it launched As painful as it may have been to get approval for Red Bull’s ingredients in each country. Let’s look closer at some of the drivers that made Red Bull such a success: An Urban Legend -. Kids want simultaneously to be acceptable to their peers and scandalous to their parents. It also helped that German moms united. The bulk of Red Bull’s marketing has been (what conventional marketers would call) below-the-line. Cool Rules. taurine had initially been found in bulls. once Red Bull finally launched in Germany. which brought Red Bull even closer to the world of drugs. Munich (which is close to the Austrian border) became a flourishing black market. It took five years to gain permission for export into Germany. They initially viewed advertising as the overarching tool in the marketing mix. As Pountain and Robins point out in their study of the ultimate attitude. making Red Bull an over-the-counter Viagra? (In fact. whose odd-cartoon. Hence. The timing of Red Bull’s launch coincided with the emergence of all-night raves and ecstasy consumption. this waiting period was ripe for interpretations and rumors by the market. In an infamous last ditch effort. “cool is an oppositional attitude adopted to express defiance to authority. and the company smartly added a ‘rumors’ section to its web site to keep the mythology going and evolving.3 could not develop the right ad campaign. both in terms of functional needs and appropriate ambience.) The list of rumors goes on endlessly. and speculation started why the drink was illegal in Germany: Was it speedin-a-can. especially its novel ingredient taurine. To be clear: there is nothing harmful in Red Bull. Once they realized that the ads’ only purpose was to build awareness and likeability – and not do the overall marketing job (i. a legal drug? Was its taurine sourced from bull’s testicles.” Speed-In-A-Can The Red Bull Story .e. to establish and increase the understanding and acceptance of the energy drink segment) the job became much easier for the creatives. problem / solution format has been run consistently since 1988 in TV and radio throughout the world. Red Bull became instant ‘cool’. to have it banned again. Kastner’s team came up with the “Red Bull gives you wiiiings” ad campaign. Red Bull’s second market and the one that served as foundation for the brand’s success and cash cow for further expansion. made for a long approval process. But its unique composition. the bulk of the brand’s marketing is spent on extensive sampling and event sponsorship. but is produced synthetically today. Hence. Initially.

urban myth. The strategy is rumor by omission. Red Bull’s marketers will have us believe that their product is a party drink. believers. but Red Bull’s unique product and focus on a functional benefit clearly attacked the soft drink industry.” Here is a product – non-alcoholic. It was sold out everywhere. the product polarizes. This is not the place to speculate whether the product actually works in a unique way (nutritionists argue that a Coke’s combination of sugar and caffeine provides the same short term effect). If Gatorade is sold to us as a “sports drink” with its promise of replenishing electrolytes. This myth-building strategy – and the latent uncertainty about Red Bulls’ ingredients and effect -. consequently. is the earnest response you will hear from just about every Red Bull employee (and. which turns its converts into stronger. about as caffeinated as a cup of coffee – that’s managed to acquire a reputation as an over-the-counter amphetamine.” jokes Mateschitz. the more the drink sells. As a matter of fact. Red Bull became cool and a hotbed for rumors. Meanwhile Red Bull sells and sells. Salon journalist Jeff Edwards concludes that “the more rumors of Red Bull’s potentially dangerous. “I always have to fly to Pamplona to source bull’s testicles. and ran out of product within its first three months of launch. with claims of effect usually confined to the OTC pharmaceutical category. They never market or describe it.” Speed-In-A-Can The Red Bull Story . it’s a way of life. all the while squirming its way into bars as if it were the latest offering from Anheuser-Busch. Product Performance “Bottom line. a tangible difference. On top. an aphrodisiac. only when absolutely necessary. evangelist). And headquarters clearly don’t mind. ignore the taste issue. which was a clear sign to the main market in Germany that something major was happening here and to better jump on this latest bandwagon. It is an acquired taste. “Those rumors have never hurt. a stimulant. denial: Red Bull has carefully and intentionally cultivated the mystery surrounding its product. and. Red Bull provides a quick boost of energy. Red Bull broke convention by promising a physical benefit rather than a taste or image one. a surefire wild-times elixir.4 Thanks to the boycott of concerned mothers and the slow approval process by the local FDAs.still works today. In his article “Liquid Cocaine”.” he adds joyfully. and thus achieve to make it disappear. that’s for sure! Imagine a flavor in-between gummy bears and cough syrup. or whether it is simply a placebo effect. Red Bull totally underestimated the pent-up demand. more passionate. this product works”. And it is marketed as such. where it is weakest. a raver’s “smart drink” gone mainstream. Red Bull. the public has filled in the blanks with speculation and innuendo. hype and anticipation. themselves. over stimulating effects spread. “The taste doesn’t matter” defends Mateschitz. “Red Bull isn’t a drink.

And it underpins the unwavering commitment to the brand’s efficacy to both its employees and the public. The company knew how to facilitate the creation of Red Bull as an urban legend.g. Letting the market participate in its marketing may have evolved out of necessity in the beginning. By embodying the functionality of the drink into tangible programs and events. Instead. Red Bull programs call for action – they invite consumers to creatively interact with the brand. But Red Bull takes their belief in “functionality” even a step further: For example.” explains Adam Comey. An obvious example is sampling. It is one of the very few brands that understands how much more valuable a deep personal experience and peer endorsement is than an ad campaign. Participation Marketing Red Bull’s strongest asset is it cult-like following by its consumers. Red Bull turns its performance claims into a reality. a Red Bull event planner. “Look how cool we are. “Red Bull is willing to invest a lot in making sure people become believers in the brand through hands-on experiences. coupons and the like. even though a truly orchestrated guerrilla campaign can be much more expensive than any broadcast media.5 “Functionality” As Common Thread Throughout all Marketing Red Bull embodies energy and stimulation in everything that they do. It needs to have a functional benefit or it won’t get used. What are some of Red Bull’s guerrilla principles: Get up close and personal Red Bull isn’t a distant and aspirational marketer (e. It is the one “theme” which guides the company’s efforts. by building their own “wings” or sculptures. Their efforts don’t usually go for volume. Red Bull initially simply did not have the investment to spend heavily in advertising. Speed-In-A-Can The Red Bull Story . They were a self-funded start-up. Instead. and they understood how to turn the market into willing participants to hype the brand. The flatness of the medium doesn’t connote movement and energy. Or take their branded on-premise merchandise: It never is just window-dressing. Their consumer promotions aren’t typical either – sweepstakes. But it has turned into its most powerful marketing tool. they seek out the likes of raves or movie studios (they sample to staff during production) – places where people are in genuine need of a real (legal) boost. who shell out a huge price premium without a single validated piece of evidence. bar staff and other stakeholders. Red Bull doesn’t use print media.

Their marketing takes place on the street. the Germans won in the end. It was one of the hottest games around. Red Bull’s intimate approach made them part of the scene. We became participants in the event. “We don’t try to control how people use Red Bull. packed with super graphics. as soccer goes. Competition – in the loosest sense – has been left in the ‘grown-up’ world of marketing. entertaining and memorable event that no broadcast campaign could ever duplicate. that ensures that lead consumer groups feel a closer connection to the brand and like a true partner to the company. With the people. Daft Punk and the Chemical Brothers. Sell out????? Wipeout XL is a great game to play over and over. but more importantly how Red Bull really helped keep us awake and alert. If you can just ignore it then the game is great but it is an eye sore to see "improve reaction time Red Bull" every time you’re waiting for the game to load. Screen name: Archimedes Red Bull furthermore ensures that consumers don’t feel pressured to drink Red Bull in a certain way. A convincing. they always provide a full and closed can. Elegant. But it backfired. It felt intrusive and un-natural. an adrenaline pumping gameplay and a killer soundtrack including such faves as The Prodigy.The companies that the game made up for it's self are cool enough. A very refreshing hands-off approach. with their hot and fun sampling team providing just the right startling energy boost all of us needed at that moment. when Playstation launched in Europe. so that consumers can decide when and how much to try. providing extra energy and improved reaction time at a click on its icon. Red Bull went into an innovative placement deal on a Playstation game called WipeOut 2097.6 Don’t you wish you could be one of us? Well.S. but by giving an overall genuine effort to respect their community.” explains North American spokeswoman Emma Cortes. Every once in a while they screw things up. quarterfinals match. My favorite personal anecdote: A sampling team got wind that I threw World Cup parties every night last summer at my place for about 20 or so soccer fanatics. During their sampling. In keeping with its functionality theme. or they actually got quite irate. but the game will be more readily forgotten than the Red Bull team for all of us crazed supporters. Not that the marketing team at Red Bull has a perfect record. any mishaps are easily forgiven. The fact that they took Red Bull drink into the game kinda makes you feel like your no longer on the race way but in an advertisement. Most players either ignored it. Getting up close and personal reduces barriers. U. In the late 90’s. buy ____!”). They surprised us at 4 a. The thing that bothers me the most about it is the advertising to Red Bull drink. A typical on-line review read as follows: General/Summary: Fast. Red Bull integrated itself into the game. Speed-In-A-Can The Red Bull Story . ready to tell our friends not only how cool it was for them to come by.A. Of course. during the Germany vs.m. A cute idea at first glance.

There is no right way to use Red Bull. an event that has amateur pilots create exotic flying machines and attempt to soar off picturesque spots like the Austrian Alps or the Santa Monica pier. Like the open invitation to join the Flugtag (German for flying day).where Red Bull is often consumed. Actually.7 Appeal to the market’s creativity Red Bull’s promotions (other than their professional extreme sports sponsorship) are participatory. Rather than sponsor concerts like everybody else. Its purpose is to give these kings of clubland. It effortlessly crosses socio/economic boundaries. collages. When these students return to their respective countries and dance floors. no code of conduct (for consumers).S. rather than processing an abstract communication effort. They won’t be asked to push the drink or hand out T-shirts and key chains. But when they regale deejays and club-goers with tales of their pilgrimage. Like the Red Bull Creative Contest which encourConsumer art a la Red Bull ages entrants to “immortalize the can forever in the form of sculptures. Red Bull begins to weave into all aspects of people’s lives and comes to mean different things to different groups without ostracizing any of them. where a liquor company hires the 10 hottest deejays and packs a club with 10. The Academy. they aren’t required to do anything. Slovakia and. they will often speak of what they learned and who they saw at the Academy.” Herbert held forth on how to “funk up that bag of crisps” and David Steele spoke about “law and the music industry. giving the brand its vital word-of-mouth hype. of course. previously held classes in Berlin (twice) and Dublin. Speed-In-A-Can The Red Bull Story . designer fashions and even precision engineering.” Or it could be a twist on music endorsement. a well-known graffiti artist from Los Angeles. And it underlines the often-overlooked message that it stimulates the mind (not just the body). This is hands-on absorption of a breakthrough product. New Zealand. Unlike other efforts. the words “Red Bull” are likely to leave their lips. It helps get them deeper into the Red Bull experience and truly understand its role.a once-in-a-lifetime chance to meet their heroes. Brandweek’s Ken Hein describes the latest Academy held this summer in New York’s Lower East Side: The collection of 60 aspiring deejays from Croatia. Consumers are asked to use their imagination in fitting Red Bull into their lives. were invited to learn from masters like Derrick Carter.000 people. Creative participation keeps the brand relevant as it encourages consumers to continuously re-interpret Red Bull for themselves. the school is more personal and intimate. the company created the Red Bull Music Academy for aspiring DJs to participate in workshops with some of the top DJs in the world. the U.” Artwork adorning the walls was provided by Freddie C. who taught the “art of holding the 10-minute bend. now in its fourth year.

They alter brand initiatives in such a way that they make sense to them and into something the main market can understand. Red Bull is an example of the influence of early markets on the adoption of new ideas. when the market created new uses and rituals: It became a mainstream staple as soon as bartenders introduced the Stoli Bully across Europe. in the context of fringe fashion. By tweaking the initiative. Red Bull is an example of a brand that finally tipped. But they won’t use tape. Well. the translators like that look. The legendary cocktail. They see what the really wired kids are doing and they tweak it. Then it takes off. they were able to facilitate the product usage evolution of its brand by its early market. But they might not get it so small.8 “The Consumer as Art Director” Anthropologist Ted Polhemus coined this phrase. Maybe there’s a kid who rolls up his jeans and puts duct tape around the bottom because he’s the one bike messenger in school. or more symbolically. They start doing it themselves. Red Bull’s sales force could have never dictated a signature drink to bartenders. comprised of Red Bull and Vodka. Speed-In-A-Can The Red Bull Story . They make it more usable. was rumored to have the power of ecstasy. As a result. But it rings true for Red Bull as well. the brand initiative itself acquires a deeper meaning. The brand did not only let the market participate. The most powerful aspect of buzz occurs when the early market enhances the original brand idea by creating a larger brand meaning or new uses of the product. that’s so cool. but reinvent the product usage. But by targeting on-premise distribution at trendy night spots. They’ll buy something with Velcro. and they might not get it with Barbie on. But there’s a way I can change it and make it okay. The market became co-creator. the early market makes brands like Red Bull meaningful to the mainstream. And the others say. One girl starts wearing a shrunken down T-shirt. She goes to Toys R Us and buys the Barbie T-shirt. DeeDee Gordon explains how this twist by the market results in mainstream acceptance: Those kids make things more palatable for mainstream people. ad agency. Lambesis’ former head of research. but they change it a bit. for the brand they passionately endorse. Or then there was the whole baby-doll T-shirt thing.

a market that hasn’t seen a new brand success in decade. Instant distribution and awareness ubiquity and intruding promotion tactics (like those used for A-B’s fleeting Tequiza) can’t charm an early market and make them feel ownership of the brand. they initially select a handful of outlets that can sell the brand. for instance. And this belief carries through their organizational structure. Take the beer industry.” Internal Culture Red Bull is on a mission. they really believe in making a difference. where sales seem to sprout from cracks in the pavement. A tactic counter to those typically applied in the beverage industry. Its marketing seduces. The fact of the matter is. One major seduction tactic they employ is exclusivity. there is a party going on and the people who travel by day haven’t been invited yet. even every vendor – is totally on board! This fosters alignment and clarity. It’s an internal culture of the overachieving underdog. with a dedicated education and coaching approach rivaling that of Nike’s Ekin team (you know. with an amazing survival instinct. ever since the deliberate launch of Sam Adams. The brand makes it initially hard for the market to experience Red Bull. the sales education team with the swoosh tattooed on their ankles). Speed-In-A-Can The Red Bull Story . And they continue to act as the underdog in the industry by continuously proving every naysayer wrong. Every employee –hell. Red Bull’s marketing is designed for the subconscious. Importantly. Sampling focuses on exclusive sub-communities.” a definite first in packaged goods! When Red Bull comes to town.9 Seduction vs. Mateschitz and his team have had the unique ability since inception to turn every challenge into an opportunity. whether it was experts doubting their unique distribution network or success in North America. and instant ubiquity. Propagation A major reason for its market’s passion for Red Bull is the company’s lack of aggressive in-your-face push tactics. you can’t have it yet. so often practiced in the beverage category. price-offs. Concludes Hein: “It’s no wonder that rival beverage companies and analysts alike are so mystified by Red Bull’s success. making the consumer feel in charge. and even the trade hears “No. after the brand had already become a major success in Europe.

it makes your cold go away. “If you mix it with cough syrup. Mateschitz himself makes sure to only work three days a week to live the life of extreme sports his brand endorses. For instance.Y. founder of London’s most disruptive ad agency HHCL. as Mateschitz describes it. the head of Read Bull’s ad agency. with the ad agency as true. Red Bull has gone through great lengths to develop a brand bible and to provide a brand coach for each region to ensure that each manager begins to understand intuitively whether a specific activity is true to Red Bull.” Despite this lack of unique selling proposition.10 Red Bull is personality driven. with the charismatic life-embracing Mateschitz as its leader and an unlikely primary apostle in Johannes Kastner. is likely the key to successful marketing and advertising: the definition of the character of the brand is more important than any proposition about it.” while a 13-year-old boy in a local deli said. each of these programs is a testament to Red Bull’s persona. The Fire Island (N. Red Bull thrives on its entrepreneurial structure. And. While they are extremely flexible in creating tailored geographic programs. both over time and across geographies. A fully committed team hired primarily for their passion and non-conformism. they have done an amazing job. It is probably the strongest client /agency relationship in the business. Speed-In-A-Can The Red Bull Story . to deliver a consistent brand persona. Consistent Persona Red Bull means different things to different people. Little hierarchy. argues that what he calls the Unique Selling Proposition. “Management by organized chaos”. Writes Hein: “Ask someone to define it and the answers will vary. according to a waitress in a New York City wine bar.) News has dubbed “The new sex drink. long-term partner rather than dispensable vendor. Steve Henry. “Me inspira a bailar” (“It makes me dance”). and caters to different occasions.

They have also successfully avoided any thorough case study in either trade magazines or marketing books. Any allusion to ‘hip’ or sex was purely in consumers’ minds. As much as larger companies spent money on consultants to benchmark the brand and then tried to emulate it. This is partly because Red Bull is understandably hushed about its strategy. Advertising Conventional Mind-Set: Advertising launches the brand and stays the lead marketing tool Advertising airs only after the launch phase and plays a limited and specific role within the marketing mix Red Bull Mind-Set: Speed-In-A-Can The Red Bull Story . The ads simply promised an energy boost through the ‘big picture’ of developing wings on people in dire situations.11 DON’T JUST BREAK THE RULES… DEVISE NEW ONES! Red Bull may have become the gold standard on how to launch innovative food & beverage brands right. Let’s take a closer look at some of the fundamental differences. at how Red Bull consistently and successfully manages to do the opposite of what everybody else does: Positioning Conventional Mind-Set: Red Bull Mind-Set: Create a socially aspiring image Create a functional foundation: show how the drink fits into people’s way of life Red Bull was one of the first modern brands to turn away from an aspirational image. they just about always failed. Red Bull has never entered industry awards like the prestigious IPA Effectiveness Awards that require a thorough description of their efforts. not images of a Red Bull ad campaign. Why give away the farm and let competitors in on your intellectual capital? For instance. too much of a different mind-set. It was just too large a stretch. Red Bull rewrote the book with a whole new approach to marketing. But the other reason for competition’s failure to duplicate its go-to-market template has been Red Bull’s rule-breaking in just about every aspect of marketing. They were not only disruptive in one or a few key activities. but its magic sauce has rarely been identified and applied correctly within the large bureaucracies of its conglomerate competitors.

it focused its pre-seeding efforts on New York City. It’s just later in the development. the brand experience. Advertising is used to reinforce. The tipping point in NYC came when Demi Moore overheard bar staff brag about the brand (at a time when it was not even officially available yet). Targeting Conventional Mind-Set: Red Bull Mind-Set: All consumers are created equal Some consumers are definitely more equal than others Red Bull is all about seeding early markets. They treated every stakeholder like a consumer. The first thing the company did was making the product available – under the radar – to bar staff of hip on-premise accounts. so the brand message doesn’t look flat or dated. It is a critical part. When Red Bull initially came to the U. not introduce.S. They focus on progressive and innovative TV and radio stations and they stay out of print. That’s where they spend their money and efforts. and went through quite an effort to get a hold of cases of Red Bull herself. where their functional benefits will make a difference. but also the unglamorous world of truck drivers and office workers. North American VP Marketing. Red Bull is not an image chaser. But the company is also clever at the more subtle aspects of media planning. the extreme sports scene. ” explains David Rohdy. To let them experience the energy boost on the job. but the best medium you can have. They penetrate those scenes. They do it with a lot of respect. where the brand was already hyped by the city’s large European influence. The product was delivered by cabs initially (getting taxi driver support along the way). But Red Bull even took it a step further. they stay off-air during the peak summer months. For instance. Red Bull clearly understood that orchestrating word-of-mouth is expensive. But they also not only go after the ‘cool’ people. and invaluable influencers of bar call choice. and basically treat them preferably to consumers – surely a first.. Speed-In-A-Can The Red Bull Story . That could be the ultra-cool raver scene.12 “Media is not a tool that we use to establish the market. giving back to the scene. at times when share of voice would sink significantly anyways. and Red Bull became an instant hit with these tastemakers. rather than trying to co-opt it.

they’ve entered markets by signing non-exclusive deals with larger distributors. hence credibly. Rather than buying their support. dividing each country into individual. autonomous cells. In other words.S. helping to start small distributorships that can focus exclusively on their brand. Distribution Conventional Mind-Set: Red Bull Mind-Set: Broad availability is used to create demand Create demand before broadening availability As disruptive as Red Bull’s distribution strategy is. it is consistent with its go-to-market principles. Red Bull has taken distribution back. they asked bar staff to participate. “If somebody told me five years ago that somebody could set up a system like this. Red Bull view distribution as a branding tool. As volume builds. not just a volume outlet. Marketing Mix (Sampling) Conventional Mind-Set: Red Bull Mind-Set: Sampling is all about quantity (reach) Sampling is all about quality (much lower reach. Red Bull focuses on proximity to functional need and ambience.13 Red Bull clearly understood how to involve crucial stakeholders in the marketing of their brand. weighted distribution. Just like Gatorade had developed a conceptual approach to distribution by prioritizing “points of sweat” (making sure that Gatorade has been available wherever athletes are active). I wouldn’t have believed it. a U. key account. Another important paradigm shift is the company’s focus on conceptual distribution vs. and have some of the highest spending on education/customer service in the industry. I wish everybody served me as they do. to provide their endorsement voluntarily. They were the first non-alcoholic beverage to focus on the on-premise. They slowly and deliberately open up to the main market over time. yet the experience of a tangible difference) Speed-In-A-Can The Red Bull Story . In the US.” evaluates Store 24.

Speed-In-A-Can The Red Bull Story . In this way. they get deeper. In fact. Rather. When Johannes Kastner heard about her quitting. In the early days. but the company has never paid an endorsement fee for it. the company positions Red Bull as a part of the celebrity lifestyle. Celebrity Sponsorship Conventional Mind-Set: Celebrity endorsement has a steep price. but by his racing buddy. they regularly gave product to studio production staff during the early days of the US launch. they dedicated a senior manager full-time to look after celebrities and make sure that every Red Bull experience they have is a great one. he was surprised that by the nature of the “endorsement deal” .14 Red Bull doesn’t care that much. he immediately reinstated her. more loyal relationships. when Red Bull started sampling out of plastic cups in supermarkets. how many people they sample. Eddie Irvine. Madonna has had Red Bull on stage at quite a few concerts. they focus on a deep experience during that sampling. For example. but don’t pay them Red Bull Mind-Set: Red Bull take celebrity endorsements very seriously. All they wanted was his enthusiasm and they would reciprocate in kind. some celebrities became acquainted with the brand and the relationship becomes genuine and reciprocal. But the company won’t pay for VIP support (other than extreme athletes). When Button met with the UK team. who was a big Red Bull evangelist. Formula One racer Jensen Button was recruited not by employees. but gets publicity Pursue those celebrities that are fans of Red Bull. And by treating celebrities differently than any other marketer. For example. Instead.the company made it clear to him that there would be no contract and no fee. when the company’s go-to-market book had not yet been written. the German field manager abruptly quit her job. and codified the brand’s sampling guidelines.

event planner. Branded merchandising does not mean anything. Consumers don’t have access. deem the company arrogant. Why? They provide extensive photo files (and product sampling) for journalists. The idea is for consumers to try hard to get a hold of any Red Bull merchandising.15 Merchandising Conventional Mind-Set: Red Bull Mind-Set: Tchotchkes rule! Keep merchandising out of consumer reach Another fantastic exclusivity/scarcity tactic. For instance. and when they do. if you just give it away in masses. Every stakeholder is treated with respect. the British term for stealing. every business contact with supporters of the brand is considered crucial. that have been rejected. Murray Partridge. but also treat their social network as (business-) partners integrating collaboration with sub-cultures into their company model. they will also tell friends and acquaintances about their misadventures – thus adding to the mythology of the brand. they cherish it like a prized possession. the former Creative Director of TBWA London calls this tactic ‘nickable’. Network Relationships Conventional Mind-Set: Red Bull Mind-Set: Vendors are lucky to work for us! Treat all stakeholders as partners Red Bull wants every contact they have – whether distributor. Red Bull only gives out merchandising (like wearables) to their sponsored athletes. Red Bull discovered and appreciates the value of its business and social network as a source of competence. Bottom line. While potential distributors. C-store owner or journalist – to be a fan of Red Bull and to be blown away by Red Bull’s customer service. Speed-In-A-Can The Red Bull Story . And just as importantly. Red Bull gets incredible cultural press coverage. consider this: Red Bull does not only treat business partners with respect. If that isn’t breakthrough enough.

success has been an overnight success five years in the making. brother! Alex Wipperfürth (alex@plan-b. the company can actually focus what’s right for the brand and the business in the long term. 2003 Speed-In-A-Can The Red Bull Story . How fascinating and old-school! Imagine a firm that does not have to alter budgets at the end of each quarter to make its numbers. Without the pressures by a short-term thinking board. and can actually manage their brand rather than the stock price. let me briefly remind you that Mateschitz’ personal wealth is estimated at about $5 billion. The U. it’s criminal”.16 Corporate Leadership Conventional Mind-Set: Clear annual volume and profit objectives and fast financial payout Patience and investment Red Bull Mind-Set: Mateschitz has resisted all temptations to sell out or go public. There hardly is a conglomerate that would have allowed a long and expensive California test market with limited distribution and low volume… “If someone preaches profit-maximizing as a company’s highest goal. To him. Plan B. a company’s goal is about the quality of his product and the coaching of his people.S. Before you start giggling about such naïveté and unworldliness. The Red Bull case study is an excerpt from his upcoming book Brand Hijack. then that’s simply wrong.biz) is a Partner at marketing boutique Plan B in San Francisco. says Mateschitz. Amen. Hell. © All rights reserved.

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