A lesson in branding & content from Red Bull

22nd August 2016

Red Bull are a perfect example of how an ingenious combo of awesome branding and a solid content strategy can make a company thrive. From BMX’ing to sky-diving from space, they remain one of the kings of content to this day.

A lesson in branding & content from Red Bull

Branding to last a lifetime

Red bull was created back in 1987 and is the highest selling energy drink in the world. Back in 2013 the energy drink sold 5.387 billion cans, that’s a lot of caffeine!

The original founder of Red Bull Dietrich Mateschitz was inspired by an existing energy drink found in Thailand called Krating Daeng. This drink was first sold in 1976 and was non carbonated, it was aimed at Thai labourers and was branded with the two charging red bulls. The bulls represent power and perseverance and the logo went on to sponsor high energy Thai boxing matches.

Red Bull created

Mateschitz was originally an international marketing director for a toothpaste brand Blandex, an unusual jump from protecting our pearly whites to vitalising our body and minds.  However it was during his travels to Thailand with Blandex that he first discovered the energy drink.  After flying to Bangkok he noticed by consuming Krating Daeng it greatly reduced the groggy feelings of jet lag and wanted to make a westernised version of the product. Teaming up with Chaleo Yoovidhya and his pharmaceutical company to adapt the flavour and carbonation, he created what we know today as Red Bull.

Red Bull’s success

There were two major attributes to the magical success of Red Bull.  Firstly, the current market assisted, with no other energy drinks in existence throughout the western world, and secondly, how Red bull aggressively marketed their revolutionary product.  Mateschitz already knew the audience he wanted to appeal to and began strategically researching and marketing high energy extreme sports. The original marketing/branding strategy for the beverage was aimed at males between the ages of 18 – 34, making it quirky and edgy enough to appear as an underground product.  Unlike wine and coffee, energy drinks don’t sell on their taste, but more on image.  These were crucial tactics used to market the drink, alongside the physically and mentally challenging events it began associating with.  Eventually marketing moved towards subtle branding that grabbed consumers attention, with high quality production, at a reasonable cost; whilst engaging consumers as a beverage for everyone.  Consistently tweaked over the years as audiences expanded, technology improved and content became key.  However the main focus remained which was to associate the feeling and energy gained from high adrenaline sports to a can of Red Bull.

The first extreme event was the Red Bull Dolomitenmann back in 1988, one of the toughest relays in the world. The marathon began in Austria combining mountain running, biking, paragliding and kayaking. The ideas spiralled from here and other events were soon spotted bearing the Red Bull branding from formula one, windsurfing, Grand Prix, snowboarding, cliff diving, base jumping to skate boarding, soapbox racing, motocross and space jumping.  During 2000 Red Bull announced their slogan “Red Bull Gives you wings” which became a branding statement still used today. Although marketing can be a painful process if executed incorrectly, even Red Bull got it wrong; well kind of.  In January 2013 a lawsuit against Red Bull for false advertising began.  Benjamin Careathers sued Red Bull complaining that after ten years of drinking the beverage he has neither acquired wings or had seen any enhanced athleticism.  Personally I cant imagine anyone genuinely believing that drinking Red Bull would achieve such results. Perhaps a personal assessment of his own well being should have been adopted here.  Either way Red Bull settled out of court and were ordered to pay $13m, of which $6.5m was to be paid back to 1.4m consumers.   However, other Red Bull marketing campaigns soared with new slogans such as “Ever dreamed you could fly ?” and “Ever dreamed of being an astronaut?”  We can all relate to these slogans, (even if your’e petrified of heights) Red Bull were poking at your individual dreams and everyone has a dream.

As Red Bull increased saturation in the market they cleverly engaged consumers with heroism and sportsmanship producing videos of athletes displaying team work, bravery and the rush the energy drink evokes.  Who wouldn’t want to feel that great from drinking a Red Bull?  So whether you have sampled too many Vodka Red Bulls or completed a plunge from space it’s guaranteed that you are familiar with Red Bull’s branding, what they represent and who they are.

Your branding

So lets take a look at your branding and what can work for your business.  The fundamental process of implementing your brand should come from your brand strategy, do you have one?  Now most people think branding is all about your logo, website and packaging, yes that’s important but there a heap of other factors to consider too.

Brand consistency

As a business you are offering a product/service to your consumers and trying to ensure they buy direct from you rather than your competitors.  Therefore branding consistency is essential as this will build trust and reliability with your consumers, and in most cases allows you to charge higher than your unbranded competitors.   Make sure that your branding is integrated into your business from the way you answer the phone, emails, letterheads to uniforms, packaging, your website and social media.  To remain consistent ensure you are using the same logo, colour schemes, placement, design and find something that represents you whilst being meaningful and in keeping with your particular industry.

Examining your brand

Have a think about what makes your business unique and stand out.  Is it the quality, taste or price of your products? Perhaps it’s the care you take in packaging; or the speed in which you offer your services.  Whatever the reason, does your brand strategy reflect this? Is it defined and illustrated through crucial content that connects with your consumers and engages on their level?  After all branding is your promise to your customers, it represents who you are and and how your consumers perceive you.  How are you going to advertise your brand? Where, when, and to whom? What type of content are you going to use? photography? videography? blogs? podcasts? What message do you want to communicate to your consumers?  Consider your own slogan, what do you want your business to be associated with?  What emotions do you want to evoke with your audience? These are all key questions you need to start with to ensure an effective brand strategy is in place.  Finally stay true to your brand and your consumers, if your key messages and promises are being met and you are delivering on your brand then consumers will return.


Play on your strengths but don’t be scared to show weaknesses too.  Admitting a weakness within your business shows honesty, as long as it’s something that can change in the future or your strengths over compensate your weaknesses.  For example I went for a Sunday roast recently at a beautiful waterside pub (strength – great location).  We decided to perch outside as the sun was shining and boats were chugging up and down the river.  Unfortunately we were told food could only be served inside the pub (weakness).  So we sighed it off and went indoors and were complimented with excellent service and drinks bought to our table straight away (strength).  The next stumbling point was the waiting time.  The food was made from scratch with fresh locally sourced ingredients and can take some time to prepare (weakness).  None the less we had committed and believed it must be worth the wait, whilst feeling a little deflated.  Over the next hour we were given delicious freshly baked bread and managed to polish off a bottle of award winning wine (strength).  However after waiting an hour and a half, ready to eat our neighbours arm and contemplating a Big Mac the food arrived like a mirage.  The presentation was immaculate and all six meals arrived together.  Once we tucked in looking like a pack of hungry wolves all the weaknesses disappeared.  It was one of the best roast dinners I have ever eaten, the meat was succulent and the vegetables packed with flavour, it was definitely worth the wait.  I will be going back at any possibility and certainly recommending to everyone I know.  Weaknesses can become strengths you just have to know how to work them.

Keep up to date with your competitors, news, market and industry changes.  Research these fields and ensure you are on top of your game, know what is impacting your business on a daily basis and how you can make it work to your advantage.  If your industry has received negative news and prices are falling try and place a positive spin on the situation.  Tesco even tried to do this during the horse meat scandal.  Tesco tweeted “It’s sleepy time so we’re off to hit the hay.”  This was a bold move and caused a stir between some animal activists but the majority of consumers saw Tesco making fun of themselves and accepting they had made a mistake.  Tesco then went on to win an award in the best crisis management category in CorpComms magazine.  The judges said Tesco had shown grace under fire and were clear on their objectives and delivered, I guess every cloud has a silver lining.  So even if you have founded a company as youngster or joined an industry half way through your career, every day trends and social media is changing constantly and you should be moving with it.  As Tim Ferris quoted “Many a false step has come from standing still.”

Category: Branding

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