Red Bull's Market

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A Bull's Market - the marketing of Red Bull energy drink

Red Bull, Austria's biggest export since Arnold Schwarzenegger, has methodically created and dominated the energy drink category much in the way players of the board game Risk would defeat their opponents. Dietrich Mateschitz, the owner of Red Bull International, created the highly caffeinated beverage in 1987. Five years later, the drink spread into neighboring countries like Hungary and Slovenia, followed by Germany and Switzerland. In 1997, Red Bull prepared to storm the U.S. market. Today, the slinky 8-3-OZ can has completed its invasion into nearly every cold box in the United States. (Ohio, Tennessee and the Dakotas are among the few states without it.) In less than three years, Red Bull singlehandedly established and then lifted the booming energy drink category from a base of $12 million in (wholesale) dollar sales to $42 million in 1998 and $75 million in 1999, per Beverage Marketing Corp. Others soon followed, building energy drinks to a $130 million business. Now Coke (KMX) and Anheuser-Busch (180) are jumping in. Last year, Red Bull's market share stood at 65%, while the company reportedly pulled in a cool $1 billion in worldwide sales. Just how Red Bull managed to accomplish so much, so quickly has become the stuff of mythology Some have written off the product by calling it a "flash in the pan" or derisively note that its handlers "got lucky". A closer investigation of the company's strategy however, reveals that luck had little to do with Red Bull's success. The company's consistent battle plan has been to "open up" a market by securing unusual distribution. When Red Bull initially set up camp in Santa Monica, Calif., it piggybacked on established distributors. Typically distributors will deliver a number of brands; a Pepsi house will handle Pepsi, Diet Pepsi and Mountain Dew, and may even pick up a non-competing rival like Dr Pepper. Sales reps even greased the wheels by paying for their...
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