The Anti-Brand Brand
The image of Red Bull is open to interpretation. It is synonymous to a “bull in china shop” – it is not subtle and you are likely to break something, however, you will look cool doing it and become part of a sub-culture bordering on anti-establishment. This is the key to the “BUZZ” – there are no rules. Who doesn’t have a rebel inside wanting to get out, who wants to fly, jump, ski or escape from the mundane? Red Bull developed a safe way of escape through association: energy, danger and youth. Brand Equity is the added value given to products and services – reflecting how consumers think, feel and act towards a brand (Kotler et al 2009). Red Bull sells “cool” as added value to their hyped-up liquid. They sell a life style, a culture of cool and adrenaline all via brand association. Red Bull has developed a brand loyalty by creating awareness through non-standard advertising, extreme and unusual sporting events as well as providing controversy at governmental levels to the extent that some countries have even banned the product. This has created an aura of mystery and bad boy charm around the product resulting in word to mouth or viral marketing and giving Red Bull a competitive advantage. The actual contents of the can are also subject to confusion. Was it high strength caffeine? Did it have bull hormones? Similarly, why would you drink it? Was it a sports drink, an energy drink, a legal high? Was it a mixer or is it drunk straight? Was it safe and legal? The ambiguity surrounding the release of Red Bull made it intriguing and successful. In 2001, Red Bull was voted as one of the top brands in Africa and Europe (Rusch, 2002). What really differentiates Red Bull from other companies is that they are a company that participates with consumers and stakeholders – they are not spectators, they lead by example. Red Bull is out there participating in raves, extreme sporting events and inventing new extreme activities such as speed gliding, crashed ice, air race and flugtag thereby breaking down barriers between product and consumer, making Red Bull approachable and part of the scene, they are a facilitator rather than a dictator. Red Bull has brand name dominance in a self created market. Market competitors have realised the potential and attempted to copy the anti-establishment image but Red Bull was able to hold onto 86% of the market in 2000 (Chaundy, 2001). In 2002, Red Bull was concerned that the BUZZ was not crossing the Atlantic to reach the shores of the US market. However, by 2005 Red Bull was the category leader in energy drinks accounting for 27.6% of the market (CSD, 2006). Once again, Red Bull set themselves up as an overachieving underdog (Wipperfurth, 2003) that seemed to defy gravity (sometimes literally) and traditional marketing methods. As can be seen from the slow up take, but successful drive into the US market, some people like Red Bull others don’t. Initial market research discovered that there was a 50:50 split on the product, which Mateschitz thought was perfect. This resulted in a new marketing mind set as shown in Table 1. Table 1 Red Bull Approach to Marketing
Conventional Mind Set
Red Bull Mind Set
Create a socially aspiring image
Create a functional foundation: show how the drink fits into people’s way of life Advertising:
Advertising launches the brand and stays the lead marketing tool Advertising airs only after the launch phase and plays a limited and specific role within the marketing mix Targeting:
All consumers are created equal
Some consumers are definitely more equal than others
Celebrity endorsement has a steep price, but
Pursue those celebrities that are fans of Red Bull, but don’t pay them Merchandising:
Get it out there – its free advertising
Keep merchandising out of consumer reach
Vendors are lucky to work for us!
Treat all stakeholders as partners
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