Marketing Idea No. 246 – What makes Red Bull charge ahead

1987 was a groundbreaking year in beverage market. That was the year when two unknown brands called Starbucks and Red Bull came into existence. Whereas a lot is being written about the rise of Starbucks mania, relatively little is known about the rise of the Red Bull brigade. What very few people know is that Red Bull is not American (its Austrian), its totally privately owned, its inspired by a Thai drink, still sales only one basic drink and is probably one of the biggest success stories of how to build a brand without advertising.  

While other brands talk about consumers looking for a distinct identity and differentiation, Red Bull is probably the only one who understood that. Red Bull is the biggest anti-brand brand, the coolest thing that happened this side of atlantic for a long time, its underground despite being over the ground. That creates a close connect between Red Bull and its notoriously fickle target market: teen agers. Teen agers strongly identify with its slightly irreverant positioning and the brand has reached iconic status thorugh its association with all sorts of extreme sports like cliff diving in Hawaii, skate boarding in San Francisco, dirt biking in London etc. Here is a brand that definitely bucks the trend and lives by its code of taking the plunge. Also unlike other FMCG brands its not extending its line.

Red Bull understood that Generation Y is immune to commercial messages. Thats why it identified a very simple grassroot level marketing strategy – find out college kids who are opinion leaders in their circle, supply them with free drinks and allow them to throw parties where they sample the products among their friends. This simple mechanism allowed Red Bull to carve out a market in an extremely competitive beverage market.

One brand. One flavor. One can. In an era of advertising and innovation; its almost unthinkable how a brand of this magnitude can be built without advertising with just one offering. But Red Bull is definitely a living proof that if your strategy is right, everything else will fall into place sooner or later.



  1. To my understanding, right association aligning with the TG gave Red Bull a big advantage. Apart from that, consistency in brand message and product placement in the consumer perception also boost the brands success. At the end of everything, doing the right things consistently is obviously bring the desired results around the brand.

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