“Red Bull gives you wings,” they say. But how can you make sure that your flight into the world of global marketing does not end like the mythical one involving Daedalus and Icarus?
We’ve examined all of the most important aspects of the Red Bull marketing strategy and decided to provide you with 6 lessons you can learn from it and apply to your own business or brand (and no, you don’t have to be Red Bull rich to do so).
Did you know that Red Bull’s headquarters are actually situated in Austria? This may come as somewhat unexpected, as they do such a good job marketing globally.
So, how did a brand like Red Bull start?
Although the brand originated in Austria, the very idea that inspired it came from far Thailand (I bet you didn’t expect this either). Dietrich Mateschitz, a toothpaste salesman at the time, was traveling in Thailand, where he heard about an “energy tonic” that supposedly kept people alert and awake.
So, he tested the idea and the ingredients for three years, before finally Red Bull was launched in 1987, in Austria. Even though some of the first reactions were discouraging, as general belief was there’s no demand in the market for such a product (of course there wasn’t, since there was no such a product), they persevered.
As a result, Red Bull today dominates the energy drinks market with more than 40% of the market share (43% in 2015). They created the market in the first place, and now, 30 years later, they’re still dominating about a half of it.
Red Bull’s answer to the question ‘how to dominate a market’? Create one!
In the beginning, as their product didn’t exist and traditional marketing was too expensive for a company in the making, they started out with a form of guerrilla marketing. What they did was go to college parties, coffee shops, bars, libraries – all the places where their target audience (18-35-year-olds) used to hang out. There, they offered their target audience free samples of their product.
I know ‘guerrilla’ sounds like some military operation, but in the case of Red Bull, it’s quite the opposite – you must’ve seen those Red Bull girls who promote their products on various events. That’s guerrilla, Red Bull style.
That got their audience talking, spreading the word about their product for free. A textbook example of word-of-mouth marketing.
From here on, the Red Bull marketing strategy went in three main directions:
Sponsoring public events
Publicity stunts that generate hype
Red Bull Stratos, the famous ‘mission to the edge of space’, was one of the most famous and highest-end stunts directed by Red Bull. This publicity stunt saw a man (Felix Baumgartner) being sent up 128,000 ft above the earth and had him free-fall out of his small ship. Along the way, he broke two world records and brought Red Bull immense publicity, as the entire world was watching it broadcast live.
It’s hard to think of a much better marketing success story than Red Bull. The company has come a really long way in its 30-year-long history – from its humble beginnings to one of the greatest brands in the world.
This is the first lesson – success doesn’t come overnight. Just like they started with just an idea that originated in Thailand, your company needs to start somewhere too. It takes a lot of time and hard work, a certain amount of luck, and, most importantly from our perspective, some seriously great marketing.
It seems Red Bull’s got the perfect mixture of all these ingredients. That’s why they’re one of the biggest brands in the world today. But, once again, their success didn’t happen overnight. So, don’t get discouraged.
The golden rule of the Red Bull marketing strategy is – product second, customer first. With that in mind, all of their content is focused on the value it can provide to their target audience.
Don’t write to sell. If you scroll through some of Red Bull’s content, you’ll see that they never really push their product directly. What makes them so successful is their ability to sell their brand without being pushy and obvious. They do it by focusing their content solely on the readers’ enjoyment so that they naturally start associating Red Bull with the content they love.
The Red Bull marketing team’s attention to detail is incredible – it shows they genuinely care about the topics they create content around. By extension, it also shows they care about their target audience.
What if, instead of targeting individuals or small groups of people, you could offer your products to huge masses of people you know are likely to be interested in your product? Of course you can, and that’s exactly what Red Bull does.
The large chunk of Red Bull’s marketing strategy is based on creating, sponsoring, or attending events their target audience is likely to attend as well. Red Bull sponsors Coachella (a two-weekend-long music festival taking place in the desert), for example, but they also organize their own music festival in New York.
As most of Red Bull users are an active group of adrenaline junkies, some of the events they’re likely to attend include (extreme) sports events, music, dance and film festivals, and unusual publicity stunts. Which are exactly the places you’re most likely to see the Red Bull logo.
This is brilliant marketing because they don’t have to do anything to gather their audience. The audience does it on their own and all Red Bull has to do is be there.
Every piece of content Red Bull publishes is of equal quality as the content by some of the most popular publications their audience might normally read (such as Buzzfeed, ESPN, Vice, and so on).
Craft content around your audience’s interests. Their content covers exactly those topics that interest their audience, such as extreme sports and music festivals. Basically, think of any place or event where you can imagine somebody drinking an energy drink and Red Bull will have quality content to support it.
Provide only high-quality content. Okay, we get it that not everybody has the budget and means to produce as professional content as Red Bull (as they do everything on the same level as major media outlets), but try to do it as well as possible within the limits of your budget. For instance, if you can’t produce professional-looking videos, go for quality blog posts instead.
Red Bull Media House even produces its own magazine, The Red Bulletin, which comes out monthly and circulates over 1.8 million print copies.
Not only does Red Bull dominate content marketing, but they also invest a significant amount of time and money in traditional media. Red Bull uses TV content in two ways: they create their own videos for their YouTube and other online channels and they do traditional TV ads.
But, as with many other things, they’ve taken it to another level. They have their own online hub called Red Bull TV, where their videos are segmented into categories (such as Events and Films) and topics (such as Culture and Cliff Diving).
Not only that – in addition to simply sponsoring or covering concerts and musical festivals, Red Bull now has its own record label, studio, publishing group, music academy, and online radio station.
As can be seen from the graph that shows product brands with the most Facebook fans in 2018 (in millions), Red Bull is the 5th most popular brand, with around 49 million fans. So, they must be doing something right, right?
They’re doing pretty much everything right. Red Bull’s social media game is at the highest possible level. Their Facebook page is filled to the brim with artistic videos, music created by their own label, and events their audience enjoys. All wrapped up in a unique visually appealing experience.
Red Bull’s Twitter (2.15m followers) and Instagram (8.6m followers) channels focus on promoting shares and interaction with fans. They do so by sharing content that captures motion, speed, sport, and adrenaline. Their posts are dynamic and engaging, and reflect the brand’s high energy image.
Even if you don’t have the resources to create your own quality content, a viable alternative could always be to curate content that intersects with your brand or product’s purpose and your target audience’s interests. While doing so, the best practice is to avoid directly referencing yourself or your product.
We could easily sum up the entire Red Bull marketing strategy in one sentence – provide something of real value to your audience (just like Red Bull does) and the customers will find their way to your product and not the other way around.