How Marketing Turned Red Bull Into A Cultural Icon

Madison Taylor Marketing

Topics: Branding

In 1987, Dietrich Mateschitz discovered an “energy tonic” in Thailand, designed to make the drinker alert and awake. He partnered with the original producer and tweaked the recipe to create Red Bull. 30 years later, Red Bull still owns roughly 30 percent of the US energy drink market, with Coca-Cola-owned Monster a distant second. So how did they get here?

Going Straight To The Consumer

When Red Bull launched, the “energy drink” segment was almost a complete unknown, and traditional advertising was expensive. There was no social media and no micro-influencers to leverage. So what did Red Bull do?

They hit the streets. They started by going straight to their audience — young men — at coffee shops, college campuses, bars, and anywhere else they liked to hang out. They handed out free samples of their product, putting the product right in consumers’ hands.

Not only did this drum up a huge amount of publicity — there’s nothing college students like more than free stuff — but it skipped the tricky education phase of launching an unknown product. They didn’t have to convince people that what amounts to a heavily caffeinated soda was a good idea. They just let the product speak for itself.

Focusing On The Content

Today, Red Bull stays in the spotlight by putting themselves there. How? With an incredible quantity of high-quality, unique content. Red Bull has embraced the “lifestyle” approach to branding — it’s not the product itself that’s unique, and they know that. There are hundreds of other energy drinks out there, and they’re all basically the same thing.

What sets the Red Bull customer apart, in their minds, is the sense of belonging to a culture and a community of extreme sports, non-stop partying, adventure, pushing the limits of human achievement, and never giving up. Red Bull drinkers want to count themselves, at least spiritually, among the ranks of Formula 1 drivers, BASE jumpers, and America’s Cup racers. By producing content showing the exploits of those people, Red Bull feeds that sensation.

Red Bull posts blogs, landing pages, social media posts, and videos on various channels just like everyone else — what sets them apart isn’t the publication of their content, it’s what’s in it.

Take Red Bull Stratos, for example. In 2010, it was announced that Austrian skydiver Felix Baumgartner was going to attempt the highest skydive on record, and that Red Bull would sponsor it. Two years and $65 million later, Baumgartner jumped out of a specially developed capsule from 127,852 feet above the earth, landing safely in the New Mexico desert. Red Bull spent almost a fifth of their global marketing budget on this stunt, because for them, content is all that matters. If the content is good and the community is happy, selling happens naturally.

Leaning Into Social Media

Red Bull currently has nearly 11 million Instagram followers — one of the biggest corporate accounts in the world in terms of followers. But take a look at their Instagram page. Notice anything odd?

There’s no product. In the top 75 posts, we found exactly one post with a picture of the product in it, and even that said nothing about it — it was a joke about a recent news item. Instead, the profile is filled with motorcycle racing, break dancing, baseball, trail running, skydiving, high diving, fighter pilots, surfing, and a thousand other extreme sports. Maybe a third of the videos on their page even have so much as a logo or their signature blue and silver paint scheme.

People don’t follow brands on social media to see professional-grade photos of the product — especially when it’s been the same product for 30 years. Red Bull knows this, so they give their community something that they do want — action, energy, and excitement. The website’s “History” page is a similar story — no mention of the product at all.

It’s All About People

From day one, Red Bull tapped into a lesson that takes some companies years to figure out, if they ever do: if people like you, they’ll buy from you. From taking a loss on free samples to pouring millions of dollars into sports teams, music venues, and sponsored athletes with no direct ROI, Red Bull has put the customer’s desires first for decades.

Most of us will never make a billion dollars or own a Formula 1 team. But that doesn’t mean we can’t take a lesson from the most successful energy drink company in the world. Keep your people happy first. The rest will come on its own.

Next Step

Your company’s marketing should be the secret sauce, ever elusive unicorn, and magic bullet that your company has been waiting for. Bottom line, it should be bringing you that money.

Strategic Marketing Inbound Marketing
Marketing Tips For The Easter Bunny

Easter is coming up, and that means lots of kids will be expecting a visit from the Easter Bunny. But we were thinking: ...

How To Stand Out In A Crowded B2B Industry

The B2B world has a reputation for being kind of bland and boring — you’re marketing to businesses who know what they ...

What's Your Brand Personality? Finding Your Voice

Consistency in your branding is crucial — people will start to assign a personality to your brand, whether you like it ...

How Nike And Colin Kaepernick Changed The Branding Game

On September 6th, during the third quarter of the NFL season opener, Nike aired a new TV ad titled “Dream Crazy.” The ...

Marketing: Impossible - How Kodak Died

There was a time when Kodak was the king of the photography world. Kodachrome film captured the Kennedy assassination ...

Does Your Personal Brand Belong in Your Business's Marketing?

Your personal brand is not so different from your business brand — it’s an image you present to the world. For better ...

Think Branding Doesn't Matter? Think Again

Branding is tough, partly because it’s so intangible. It’s hard to point to exactly what constitutes a company’s brand, ...

Competition Means Your Marketing Needs To Stand Out

Businesses need to grow. It’s the fundamental business objective that drives all the others — turning a profit, hiring ...

Make Your Brand Sing with These 5 Tips

  What’s branding? And how is it different from marketing? The simple answer is that your brand is how your customers ...

7 Reasons It May Be Time to Rebrand Your Business

You don’t have to be a marketing genius to understand that branding is an essential part of the game at every single ...

Can You Save Your Dying Brand? You Betcha!

  Over the past year, your brand hasn’t been doing very well. No one seems to be interested in it anymore. New ...

5 Tips to Building a Logo and Brand That Will Draw In Customers

In order to be successful as a business, you need to have the ability to establish a strong and meaningful connection ...

Need More Help? Talk to the Experts.

Contact Madison Taylor Marketing