Red Bull is an unbeatable marketing powerhouse.
When it comes to their marketing strategy, the brand takes everything it does to the extreme.
However, their marketing efforts always put the audience first.
In fact, selling their product comes second.
While they’re active on array of channels and use tons of different tactics, everything revolves around one concept: creating content and experiences people would be interested in even if they don’t care about energy drink brands.
By going above and beyond to produce content on par with major publishers, pull off mindblowing events, and more, they’ve become one of the most talked about brands in the world.
In this post, you’ll learn how they went from small startup to global media empire (and borrow their ideas for your own brand).
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What’s the best way to dominate a market?
Create one that doesn’t exist yet.
That’s exactly what Red Bull did with energy drinks 30 years ago.
Thanks to smart marketing and creative strategy, they’ve stayed on top for three decades.
So, what does the data look like behind that domination? Download this infographic and find out.
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How Red Bull Got Started
Red Bull first came to the market in 1987 after Austrian toothpaste salesman Dietrich Mateschitz came to Thailand and heard about an “energy tonic”, created by Chaleo Yoovidhya. The tonic was supposed to help keep drinkers awake and alert.
After three years of testing Red Bull launched in Austria, but the two businessmen had doubters. “There is no demand in the market for this type of drink,” they said. There was no way anyone would go for it.
They were wrong.
Today, Red Bull dominates, with over 43% of the market share in 2015. The best part? They’re still going strong. Considering Red Bull created the market in the first place, dominating just about half of it after nearly three decades years isn’t bad.
Check out this infographic of their whole history:
The History Of Red Bull's Unconventional Marketing Strategy
When Red Bull first came out, energy drinks didn’t exist, and traditional advertising was expensive.
So, Red Bull went rogue and went with a different strategy.
What did they do, exactly?
They simply went straight to their target audience (18 -35-year-old males)at college parties, libraries, coffee shops, bars and other places where they hang out.
By bringing their audience free samples, they put the product right in their consumer's hands.
That got their audience talking, spreading the word about their product for free.
Today, they still employ a similar strategy: they go wherever their audience is at.
Whether that means sponsoring a music festival or creating top-notch culture content, they'll do it.
In fact, the content Red Bull publishes is executed at the same level as a professional publishing house. They're effectively a media company that happens to sell an energy drink, rather than the other way around.
How Red Bull Reaches Its Target Market
Red Bull focuses on three significant tactics to attract its target audience:
- Publishing awesome content: The content that the Red Bull marketing team creates is on the same level as other major media outlets that their audience might consume content from.
- Colossal publicity stunts: Red Bull takes “Go Big or Go Home” to the next level by producing massive stunts that cause everyone to freeze and watch what happens.
- Sponsoring or creating events: Red Bull proved its marketing prowess by taking their product and associating it with things their audience loves by sponsoring or creating events for them.
Check out this Slide Deck on Red Bull’s marketing strategy:
How Red Bull Approaches Content Marketing Strategy
Red Bull’s content does three things exceptionally well.
First, it covers topics that interest their audience. Extreme sports, concerts and music festivals are just a few of the topics covered on the Red Bull website. Picture anywhere you might see someone enjoying (or needing) a Red Bull and their content will cover it.
Second, is their ability to sell their brand but not push their product. Their content focuses solely on the enjoyment of the reader, not selling Red Bull. In turn, their audience begins to associate their product with content that they love to consume.
Take this video for example. It’s high energy, high impact, and full of content that people who love extreme air stunts would enjoy:
How Red Bull Uses Publicity Stunts to Generate Hype
Another piece of the Red Bull marketing strategy is their insane publicity stunts. They sent a man up 128,000 ft above the earth in a small ship and helium balloon and had him free fall out of it. This stunt, commonly known as the Red Bull Stratos Jump broke two different world records:
By creating massive stunts, like the Stratos Jump, it causes their audience (and let’s face it, probably everyone else) to stop and think, “Whoa what’s that? I NEED to watch this.”
How Red Bull Uses Events to Reach Consumers
The third part of their strategy involves hosting and sponsoring events that their target market is already attending. Whether that means music festivals, film events, or even extreme cliff diving, Red Bull will either create or sponsor an event around them.
Why is this a brilliant move? Their audience is already there. Their target audience is an active group. They’re trying new and crazy stunts, they love extreme sports or rocking out at a music festival.
So Red Bull shows up at places they know their target audience would be.
Take Coachella for example. This massive music festival takes place over the course of two weekends in the desert and fans don’t want to miss a second of it. That may mean sacrificing a few hours of sleep.
Red Bull shows up and gives them the wings (and energy) they need to stay awake and keep jamming at the festival.
8 Ways Red Bull Executes Its Marketing Strategy
Red Bull’s ability to stay true to its branding and values is what makes them successful.
1. Maximizing The Idea Behind Their Tagline
Red Bull's messaging strategy revolves around their tagline, “Red Bull gives you wings.” It focuses on the idea that their product gives people the “wings” or energy they need to do whatever they want when they want.
This tagline fuels their content because they produce and record some of the most action-packed, high flying sports and activities the world has ever seen.
Need a little help jumping out of a plane in a flying suit? Let Red Bull give you the extra push you need.
2. Keeping Consistent Visual Branding
The visual branding that Red Bull has created is a key contributor to the brand’s success.
Take a look at one of their more recent YouTube videos:
The content keeps the watcher engaged through a fast-paced, high-intensity stunt that leaves them wondering if they’ll actually be able to pull it off.
That edge of your seat, shock-inducing mentality is what Red Bull’s branding is all about. In turn, they’re able to say, we gave people the energy (and courage) they needed to attempt something this crazy.
3. Letting Values Be Their Guide
Their values play a role in their content as well. They center around one core phrase “giving wings to people and ideas.” Everything that the Red Bull team communicates revolves around that tagline and their values.
It’s the ability to keep that communication consistent over the past 30 years that has lead to their success.
4. Building a Strong Content Core
RedBull’s content core can be summed up by saying:
“Red Bull’s content core revolves around the intersection between their audience’s interest for extreme sports, festivals, and a fast-paced lifestyle with their product’s ability to keep people awake and give them energy during those events.”
They focus on topics like extreme sports, music, art, dance, nightlife and a whole lot more. Because of that broad spectrum, their content can appeal to the right audience.
There is one thing that Red Bull does with its content core that pushes them ahead of the pack.
Every piece of content that they create matches the quality of other publications their target audience might read like Buzzfeed, Vice, ESPN, and more. That level of quality makes it seem like it’s coming from a powerhouse dedicated to creating consumable media, not an energy drink brand.
5. Creating Content Around What Their Audience Loves
What does every topic that they cover (and there’s a lot of them) have in common?
They focus on activities that their audience would participate in while consuming their products. They also publish that content everywhere their audience is likely to hang out.
They publish a massive amount of material on their website, which, surprisingly, has no mention of their product whatsoever:
They produce a magazine, The Red Bulletin, which circulates over 2.2 million copies a month:
They also create awesome, awe-inspiring videos:
In summary, if their target audience is consuming content on a given channel, you can count on Red Bull being there.
6. Revamping the Way They Use Traditional Media
It’s not just content marketing that Red Bull dominates. The brand invests a substantial amount in traditional mass media channels as well.
Red Bull’s TV content operates in two formats: videos they create for their online channels (YouTube, social media, etc.) and ads that they partner with traditional TV channel content:
Their TV content resides on their online hub called Red Bull TV. Their videos and shows are segmented into formats like Events and Films as well as channel topics like Cliff Diving and Culture:
They’ve moved into the music realm too. In addition to covering or sponsoring massive musical festivals, Red Bull also boasts it’s own record label, recording studio, music academy, publishing group, and online radio station.
7. By Being Loud and Proud With Social Media Strategy
Social media is another channel that Red Bull dominates with authority.
Their Facebook page, for example, is full of artistic videos that blend together visually appealing images, music created by their own record label that pumps up viewers, and the sports and events their audience loves.
Their message is short and sweet while the first 3 seconds leave you wondering what is happening. You have no choice but to see it through to the end:
Man-made waves & hand-made surfing skills.
Posted by Red Bull on Tuesday, November 28, 2017
Their Twitter and Instagram channels on the other hand focus on “wow” worthy images to promote shares and interaction with their fans.
What’s a wow worthy image for Red Bull? According to Link Humans, it’s images that capture speed, sport and motion:
Wings with a view. Where are your wings taking you this week? pic.twitter.com/ZKrEtr40yb
— Red Bull (@redbull) November 14, 2017
Their ability to create dynamic social media posts that are so engaging it stops fans from scrolling past it is what makes them a social media success. Each media piece looks like their subject is in motion, which reflects the brand’s high energy aesthetic.
8. Bringing The Product To The Audience With Sponsorships and Events
Finally, Red Bull’s sponsorship and events are the last part of their marketing strategy that seals the domination of their brand. Let’s break their efforts into three categories:
- Publicity stunts.
- Events they’ve created.
Their publicity stunts are so crazy it forces the world to stop and watch. Of course, there’s their Stratos Jump, but there’s more.
Then there are their events, like Red Bull Crashed Ice or Red Bull Queen of the Bay that focus on specific sports like ice cross or surfing respectfully. These events focus on fans of the sport and raise awareness of the Red Bull brand.
Finally, there are sponsorships. From the Electric Daisy Carnival in Las Vegas to Coachella, Red Bull is involved with it all. It’s a genius move on the company’s part because who attends all of those events? Their target audience.
Not only that, but those sponsorships allow Red Bull to expose the brand to new audiences due to the sheer number of people who attend.
Why Their Strategy Works
Red Bull’s strategy works because of three different things:
- The first is their ability to tell a story that entices their audience. Their focus on everything from extreme sports to music festivals gives them a wide playing field, but it’s not just that.
- Red Bull puts its product second, and the content and value they can give their audience first. The attention to detail that their marketing team gives is evident. These are people who care about the topics their writing, recording or creating content around.
- Finally, it’s their commitment to the values and aesthetic that the brand created when they first got their start that makes their marketing work. Everything they create relates back to the idea of giving people and ideas wings to fly.
How to Make Red Bull’s Marketing Strategy Work For You
It goes without saying, Red Bull has come a long way in the 30 years since it’s inception. From very humble beginnings to the mega-brand publishing house it is today, Red Bull is a marketing success story.
Let their story serve as a reminder that your organization needs to start somewhere. They didn’t go from an idea in Thailand to a multi-mega corporation overnight. That took time, luck and some seriously hard work (and a lot of great marketing along the way).
Follow their lead by starting small. Here are some ideas:
- Create a short weekly video series on a topic that interests your audience.
- Curate social media content that intersects with your product’s purpose and your audience’s interests (without directly referencing yourself).
- Publish an email newsletter full of cool and useful stuff your audience might like (and maybe slap your own logo in their somewhere).
The main takeaway here is this: to succeed at content marketing like Red Bull, you have to put your audience’s interests first, and create stuff that looks and sounds like the kind of content they consume from publishers.
Instead of emulating other marketers, that means emulating magazines, TV shows, news websites, and anything else your audience might read and watch.
Want to learn more about how to do that, exactly? Here’s some additional reading material to get you started:
Where will your wings take you from here?