Thanks to a tip-off from BevNet.com, we learned that Red Bull North America has quietly released a new limited edition orange-flavored energy drink (BevNet article here). The new 8.4oz (250ml) energy drink is closely linked to soccer, predominantly available in sporting venues where soccer is the main attraction. After launching beverage innovations in other areas, it appears that Red Bull has returned to exert their influence within energy drinks. With failed experiments at penetrating soft drinks (with Red Bull Cola) and energy shots (with Red Bull Energy Shots), the renewed focus toward energy drinks is a welcome sign for the energy drink manufacturer.
However, why was this product launched without much publicity? It took consumers to bring up this launch in order for BevNet to squeeze more information out of Red Bull. Even a search through google has revealed no information nor any high quality images for this product as of yet. Is this a new launch plan that Red Bull is trying out, where they offer different flavors in limited duration? Is this even a good strategy given their strength and associations with “energy”?
Red Bull’s latest launch carries with it the discussion of “Push vs Pull Marketing”. With consumers searching out more information on the BULL energy drink, Red Bull may have effectively created new consumer demand for this innovation – hence the manufacturer’s “pull” tactic. Regardless of intent, they have transformed their brand loyalists into advocates for the new energy drink. And instead of selling it into retailers and sacrificing shelf space for a new extension (the manufacturer’s “push” tactic), the consumer demand may help put this drink in the fridges and cooler vaults at the expense of Monster, Rockstar, or a host of other energy drink manufacturers. Even if the target was for sporting venues exclusively. If this is a new introduction strategy that Red Bull is trying, then it has been successful at generating buzz.
The question on whether this is a good strategy is a tougher one to answer. Even with the product launch deemed a success, the question on how much more successful it would have been with marketing support remains. Given that Red Bull and “energy drink” are synonymous like Kleenex and facial tissue, or Colgate and toothpaste, or Band-Aid and adhesive bandages, why do they not leverage on the strength of their brand name? The equity of the Red Bull name carries with it easy access to retailer distribution and a profit premium. The fact that the product’s packaging bears minor resemblance to Red Bull starts an entirely new discussion on what Red Bull is trying to do here. Per the BevNet article on the different look of this product, could Red Bull be attempting to create sub-brands or sub-segments within their product portfolio? Or are they trying to be show off more brand personality with the whimsical packaging? Certainly thought-starters for a different day.
What we know so far is that after the foray into soda and energy shots, Red Bull has hit home runs with their energy drink product launches. Red Bull Total Zero and Red Bull Editions should have generated incremental sales to their beverage franchise without much cannibalization. Should the BULL energy drink become a staple, chances are it will be a success as well.