May 17, 2012

Red Bull is Killin’ It

As someone who holds a deep passion for the branding and marketing industry, I tend to informally monitor a brand’s progression over time. Just like most people in the business, I’m a bit of an industry critic – some brands I naturally root for and some I root against. Today, however, I want to talk about a brand that I’ve always been pretty unbiased towards… that is, until recent years. The other night while I was cooking dinner, watching television and browsing my iPad (welcome to 2012), my attention was briefly apprehended by Red Bull’s new TV spot. Not only was I impressed by the production value – impactful, dynamic clips of the Red Bull Team overlaid with an emotionally charged, motivating melody and voice-over – but it also caused me to say out loud to myself, “Wow. Red Bull is really killin’ it.” And here’s why.



Red Bull has been a pretty interesting brand to follow over its relatively short life. It was first developed and sold in Austria in 1987. It didn’t make it to the U.S. until 1996, and by that time Red Bull was starting to establish itself globally. And not only establish itself, but establish an entirely new product category. Red Bull was really the first to pioneer the global energy drink marketplace, which anyone would describe as courageous, risky and bold. So even at its pioneered essence, Red Bull was founded on characteristics it has spent so much time, money and effort trying its best to embody.


Flash forward to present day and a completely saturated (and regulated) marketplace, and Red Bull is still the world’s #1 energy drink company. In 2011, Red Bull pulled in $471 million in U.S. sales and held 44% of the energy drink market share, according to SymphonyIRI. But how do they continue to stay on top in such a crowded market? Well, the simple answer is branding.  Red Bull has managed to create something that reaches far beyond its product offerings and even its industry. It has created a movement, a culture, and even a world – the world of Red Bull.



Here are a couple of ways Red Bull got there:



From the beginning, Red Bull realized how you market a product is just as important as the product itself. That’s why it invested in relationships – with people and brands that reflected similar characteristics. In 1989, Red Bull sponsored their first Formula 1 driver. Now, it’s hard not to see a Red Bull sponsorship at a sporting event – they even own a professional soccer team. And within the sporting world, they absolutely own the extreme-sports segment. Skateboarding, skydiving, wakeboarding, cliff diving, rock climbing, surfing… you name it, and Red Bull has some sort of stake in it. But it doesn’t stop at sports. Dance, music, film and gaming are just a few other categories that Red Bull is exploring. Its vision spreads far and wide, and there are no signs of slowing down.



Consistency is what develops reputation. Red Bull has remained consistent at a high level for the majority of its existence. Red Bull’s messaging focused more on functionality in the early years as the product was introduced, and now has switched to a much more emotional approach. But even with the shift, its overall positioning has remained consistent. Just ask any consumer about Red Bull and their response will most likely leave you with, “It gives you wings.”



You can have a great idea, but if you can’t execute, nothing will ever come of it. Fortunately Red Bull knows how to execute, which might be its strongest attribute. Its efforts began with animated sketch-art advertising, to help showcase the product in an amusing, but functional manner (who can forget the “Pigeon” ad). Red Bull’s more recent marketing efforts have become wildly interactive and social, focusing more on the lifestyle it has created that surrounds the brand. Consumers are regularly visiting its website to explore and discover the world of Red Bull, looking for opportunities to hang with the brand. Red Bull even has its own media company, Red Bull Media House. So not only is Red Bull the content feature, they are also the content producer. Pretty amazing.



The remarkable thing about Red Bull’s brand is the fact that it has matured in such a short period of time. It went from a new product in a new category, to a cultural influencer in less than 25 years – not many other brands can say that. Without Red Bull, it’s hard to say where extreme-sports would be today. And I’m excited to see what’s in store for the future.


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