What every business could learn from Red Bull

The company that went from selling energy drinks to truck drivers to dropping a skydiver from space.

Peter Iantorno November 25, 2014

If you're looking for a source of inspiration for your business, or just some killer marketing ideas, you could do far worse than to take a cue from a company that started off selling simple energy drinks to Thai truck drivers, and has gone on to become one of the biggest and most recognisable brands on the planet.

The Red Bull story started all the way back in 1976, when Thai businessman Chaleo Yoovidhya invented a drink high in sugar, taurine and caffeine, which quickly became popular with truck drivers due to its ability to help keep them awake and alert at the wheel.

However, it wasn't until 1984 that the company came to be as we know it. Austrian businessman Dietrich Mateschitz was so impressed at the drink's reviving qualities that he invested $500,000 in the company and pushed ahead with plans to make it global.Krating Daeng. Original Red Bull.Sure enough, in 1987 the product was launched in Austria and the business hasn't looked back since. The company now employs around 10,000 people in 166 countries, and since it began, it has sold in excess of 40 billion cans of its signature high-energy brew, leading the way for a now booming energy drink industry.

While the drink has undoubtedly been a massive success, an even bigger win for the company is the astounding growth of the brand as a whole, which has become synonymous with pretty much everything considered cool in today's modern media world.

But the real questions are: how do they do it, and what can other businesses learn from Red Bull's success?

Content is king

In the current age of modern media, to make your business stand out from the crowd and be the name on consumers' lips, the first and most important rule is that content is king. When Red Bull first started releasing TV adverts to promote their drink, they had a catchy and slightly self-indulgent logo: "Red Bull gives you wings". The clips were short, easy to understand and amusing. It was just the start, but already the content put the brand into peoples' consciousness.

Fast-forward a few years, and with the brand no longer needing to explain itself - indeed the drink barely needs advertising anymore - its media channels have redirected into areas where the objective is no longer as clear, aside from to promote the wider Red Bull brand, but the content is superior to pretty much everything else.

The greatest example of this was Red Bull Stratos - the at-the-time world-record skydive performed by Felix Baumgartner from the upper stratosphere. Although the record has since been broken by Google executive Alan Eustace to very small fanfare, the Stratos jump became the most watched live online video of all time with eight million people tuning in at the time, and 37 million views since, and counting. Diversify but stay true to the brand

To go from a small-time operation selling energy drinks to a corporation spanning Formula 1, air racing, cliff diving and leaps from the edge of space, Red Bull had to explore new areas and link up with people and events that seemed completely unrelated to the core business.

However, this wasn't some scatter-gun approach with the company lending its name to any and every event or person that would have them. This was a very targeted effort to become associated with only the events and athletes that aligned with the brand's ethos of taking things to the extreme and living life to the fullest. Sebastien Vettel Red Bull driver. Know your audience

A large part of the above is knowing who your audience is, and not forgetting what appeals to them. Red Bull has probably mastered this better than anything else they've done, but it's not just the most widely watched or accessible sports and events that it's focussed on.

By and large extreme sports have a very small following compared to professional competitions, but their fan base is passionate. Red Bull has tapped into the skateboarding, snowboarding, mountain bike and motocross market with huge success. It has used celebrity athletes and artists from these niche areas to show its understanding for their world.

Who would have thought that a big, corporate company spending its time and money in non-mainstream markets would reap such success. While Red Bull is rightfully considered by many as the shining beacon of marketing done right, it does have the benefit of a huge budget and dedicated teams working tirelessly to ensure that the brand keeps on growing and stays in the public consciousness.

Of course, very few brands can compete with that, but even for small businesses the message is the same: if you want people to engage with your brand, you must first intrigue and entertain them, and only once you've done that and built a relationship will your product begin to get noticed.