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How Red Bull invented the ‘cool’ factor

How Red Bull invented the ‘cool’ factor

By Clark Turner

It’s one of today’s most contemporary brands associated with some of the most exciting sporting events around the world and has helped to define the ‘cool’ factor for brands.

So, it may be a surprise to some that the Red Bull brand is almost 25-years-old. The packaging and product has changed little since launch but brand vision and strategy has seen the company evolve to become a dominant player in the energy drinks market.

Red Bull 2007 sales figures showed the brand’s continued growth in the UK energy drink market, with end of year sales of 329.5 million cans; an increase of 14%, or over 40 million cans, year on year.

Despite a slow down in soft drinks sales overall, the energy drinks sector itself has continued to thrive, growing by 22% in the off trade year on year.  Red Bull has a 27% share, according to Nielsen

“We’re very fortunate, our product does something. It’s an energy drink and it works,” UK Managing Director, Nigel Trood (pictured) told us, “On the back of that we’ve attempted to build a brand experience that consumers associate as something positive and leaves them with a good memory.

“It’s also seen as an inspirational product, a silver can that people like to be seen drinking with associations of a ‘cool’ and premium drink.”

The strategy for building the brand has been created around a simple goal. Whenever a consumer is in need of energy, the company wants then to automatically think of Red Bull.

The brand uses traditional media channels such as TV, cinema and press. But more important has been the role of word of mouth marketing, playing on associations with energy, danger and youth culture.

This has been fostered through an alignment with extreme sports and adrenalin-fuelled activities, as well as street culture and music events. Through happenings such as these the roles of engagement and brand experience play a critical role.

“Credibility is very important to us,” said Trood. “The consumer needs to see us as a credible brand and so its important that we’re associated with the right kind of events.

“By attempting to build brand awareness through appropriate events around the world the aim is for consumers to know the product and on then experience it though use.”

Raising credibility and awareness sits at the core of building the brand across its global markets but still allows for a degree of autonomy in local markets.

In the UK that means supporting more mainstream sports athletes that have widespread appeal to consumers, as opposed to backing the free sports stars that have a greater draw in other markets.

The other factor in maintaining the ‘cool’ factor for Red Bull is keeping ‘in tune’ with consumers – and more specifically the 14 to 19-year-old target age group. Every year the brand does market research with a sample of one million consumers.

“We spend a lot of time talking to consumers and have realised we need to listen to and learn from them if we want to seen as innovative,” said Trood. “It’s also important for us nor to simply just throw money at sponsorship. We want to be seen to be playing an active role at the invents we’re involved in.”

Digital marketing plays a key role in reaching the youth market with the website serving as the central entry point to the brand and it’s activities. Perhaps surprisingly though eCRM is not a channel maximised in building the brand.

Trood explained, “It’s never been a topic on our minds. We use TV and cinema to build brand awareness but rather than use e-mail marketing we’re more interested in talking to consumers one-to-one.”

Marketing looks to be stepped up in 2008 with a 15% increased investment in the practice in the UK.

Under the strategy “think global, act local” event activity in the calendar include the London leg of the Red Bull Air Race World Series.

The inaugural 2007 event was attended by over 50,000 people and was broadcast ‘as live’ on Channel 4 TV broadcast. An extensive PR and ATL campaign included the world’s first 3D cinema ad and the largest ever outdoor ad.

“It’s a truly innovative event  - the Formula One of the skies. It’s a serious sports event and unbelievable to watch, “ said Trood. “Red Bull had to lead the way with an event such as this. No one else would do it.

“It importantly allows us to carry a big brand message while providing the audience with a great experience they can relate back to the brand.”

The second major happening is the Flugtag, returning to the capital after an absence of five years. It will see 40 teams of inventors design, construct and fly their man-powered machines in London’s Hyde Park on June 7, watched by an anticipated audience of 80,000 spectators.

The event is to be supported by a multi-platform marketing campaign including a £2 million ad spend, ‘live builds’ of Flugtag machines in key cities across the country and a dedicated network television programme aimed at a family audience.

In addition, a regional marketing force (Red Bull Aviators) will be tasked with encouraging local media to support their teams by uploading daily team blogs and video content onto their websites whilst a one-off ‘Flugtag Gazette’ will be distributed in key areas around London.


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