Red Bull did the seemingly impossible.
Founder Dietrich Mateschitz started from practically nowhere in the mid-1990s to become the only successful new entrant into the soft drinks market for more than a generation, baffling experts in the process.
Red Bull grew its sales from six to 300 million cans between 1996 and 2006.
It makes for the perfect case study to examine, piecing their story together and learning lessons from their successes in branding.
Of course, Red Bull isn’t the only company to try to enter the soft drinks market. Virgin attempted to do the same with its brand of cola 20 years ago.
But despite having the genius entrepreneurial backing of Founder and CEO Sir Richard Branson and a well-established marketing and logistics infrastructure, the company wasn’t able to break the market.
It’s competitors, the Coca-Cola Corporation and PepsiCo, continue to dominate to this day.
Although Red Bull’s target market was more open than the cola market — it was making energy drinks rather than direct Coca-Cola substitutes.
Today, it’s still lauded as a shining example of what is achievable in competitive markets on a small budget.
Red Bull showed that it was possible to enter the energy drinks market — just like Elon Musk demonstrated that it was possible to get into the automobile market and win with Tesla Motors.
Before long, others followed with energy drinks (Monster, Rockstar, NOS, AMP, etc.) and a whole new segment of the market was born.
For marketing companies, like AMW Group, none of Red Bull’s success is surprising in hindsight. The company essentially did what many modern marketing gurus today would recommend: forget about the product, just do something interesting and it’ll advertise itself.
For small business owners and entrepreneurs, this sort of thing might seem counterintuitive, but in the case of Red Bull, it worked.
Remember, Red Bull’s core product was little more than a fizzy cup of coffee in a can. The company knew that if it was going to get recognition, it had to go beyond the drinks and sell something else: an idea of what it meant to be a customer of Red Bull.
Red Bull decided that to make a name for itself, it had to literally give itself “wings” and so it started putting its branding all over extreme sports, including the spoilers of Formula One (F1) cars.
This set off a chain of events in the minds of its consumers and admirers (followers).
People witnessed stunning acts of heroism, like the best pilots flying planes around obstacle courses, jumping off mountains in wing suits, and smashing up against the crash barriers at the Monte Carlo race course.
They then associated the brand with incredible feat of athleticism, daredevilism, and fearlessness. This, in turn became associated with the drinks themselves.
Red Bull’s product was a shortcut — a quick fix — to achieve the same level of concentration and ability required to do what their favorite daredevils were doing in competitions, on TV and across the web.
If you’re an entrepreneur, it’s worth taking some time to do what Red Bull did.
First, think about the psychology of your target market/audience. Ask yourself, what is it that they really want? Is it the product itself? Or is it something more fundamental than that like an experience and a lifestyle?
If you get the formula right, like Red Bull did, you stand to make a lot of money.
Fun Fact: Founder Dietrich Mateschitz has led by example, learning to fly classic airplanes and even encouraging his employees (10,997) to do the same.