I was quite young when I first saw a TV commercial for Red Bull with my eyes glued to the screen and even though I was just ten years old at the time, I could appreciate how brilliant it was and how amazingly Red Bull was marketing its energy drink.
Red Bull scored the highest market share in the world of energy drinks with 6.302 billion cans sold in a single year as of 2018 which leads back to a sweetened non-carbonated energy drink called Krating Daeng containing water, cane sugar, caffeine, taurine, inositol and B-vitamins originally being sold in Thailand starting from 1976 as a refreshment for rural Thai labourers. But it didn’t quite strike the popularity that the founder Chaleo Yoovidhya hoped it would.
Chaleo was born to a pair of poor Chinese immigrant parents in Phichit who traded fruits to earn their living. With little formal education, he grew up to work for his mom and dad, but with the aspiration to achieve bigger dreams, Chaleo moved to Bangkok and became an antibiotic salesman before quitting and setting up his own pharmaceutical company where he found the inspiration to develop his very own brand of an energy drink and named it Krating Daeng.
But after Chaleo’s marketing strategy failed to get significant attention for the drink, he refocused all of his efforts into sponsoring Thai boxing matches where he struck gold and the drink became red hot until 2014 where another energy drink M-150 took over and dominated the market leaving Chaleo’s drink with only a market share of 7 percent.
After investing ten years of his life, a guy named Dietrich Mateschitz graduated with a marketing degree back in somewhere around 1972 moving on to working for brands like Unilever and Blendax. It was part of a marketing assignment that Dietrich coincidentally travelled to Thailand and having the effects of a jet lag, he tried Krating Daeng for the first time ever. Immediately feeling the impact of the drink, Dietrich met up with Chaleo, where an iconic product maker came face to face with a genius marketer.
Both became intrigued with how the other one’s mind worked and decided to become partners in a venture that would give the world of energy drinks a whole new meaning. They took out US$500,000 each, adjusted the ingredients to suit the western taste buds and launched an international brand calling it Red Bull.
Each partner controlled a 49% share in the company with the remaining 2% going to Chaleo’s son and an agreement for Dietrich being at the helm running the company with the strategies he deemed significant.
Red Bull reached the peak of its success in the middle of 2008 where Forbes named Dietrich and Chaleo as the 250th richest people in the world with an estimated net worth of US$4 billion.
A big part of an energy drink’s effect on cognitive performance resulting in heightened attention and reaction timings are primarily due to the presence of caffeine which led to compiling evidence that energy drinks significantly increase mental and physical performances during strenuous tasks like driving, but excessive consumption can and will lead to cardiac and psychiatric conditions.
The amount of caffeine present in a single can of Red Bull is same as that of a single cup of coffee with a little bit of difference varying from country to country as some of these markets have restricted the caffeine amount to a particular dosage in energy drinks.
With its share of Red Bull lovers, the energy drink faced initial restrictions specifically in the market of Norway, Denmark, France and Kuwait as they were concerned with the presence of taurine in the drink which is an organic compound essential in the development of skeletal muscle, the retina and the central nervous system. The authorities in the restricted market challenged the drink as being harmful for combining taurine with other ingredients, but since they were unable to prove any definite taurine related health risks, Red Bull easily began selling in these markets except Kuwait where its banned for people under 16 after it allegedly caused an heart attack for a 16 year old kid.
As times evolved, Dietrich consistently connected Red Bull to increasing mental and physical attributes required to perform numerous types of extreme sports attempted by young men around the world, but me being highly un-interested in any kind of sports, found Red Bull mesmerizing when one of my teachers working for a local TV channel was up all night to put the down broadcast live again and had to attend the class the other day without a single minute of sleep. He stepped into the class with a can of energy drink and gave a memorable lecture like he usually did. The drink he was holding, was Red Bull.
Since that day, my career path led me to becoming a digital marketer directing me back to my first Red Bull TV commercial to find inspiration for my own marketing strategies. The narrative in this ad right here is a master class in storytelling, it’s incredibly trippy and hooks you back to it again and again.
Every time I watch it, I’m reminded of what Dietrich was able to do with his life. He got rich not by inventing a new product…, but by selling an ordinary one inventively.
I’m not a Red Bull consumer but digging deep into its origins gave me a reason to dig deep into the founder’s story and that became the inspiration point for this narrative as to how they were able to dominate the market.
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In the hopes of connecting with story lovers all over the world, this is Mr. Zeecon, in the making of a great story.
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