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Worth reading

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Here's an provocative piece on Red Bull marketing and obscure extreme sport events like kiteboarding to Cuba, which you might be interested in. It's a bit of an eye-opener for those out there who think Red Bull = standard, intuitive marketing in any way shape or form, and sheds some light on what RB's "marketing genius" is really based upon. Question is, does so-called "murketing" sell soccer in the U.S.? Call me very, very skeptical.

A few choice snippets.

"You don't drink this stuff for the flavor — it's been described, accurately, as tasting like liquid Sweetarts — but for the effect. It’s supposed to give you a boost — it "vitalizes body and mind," as the can puts it. Presumably this explains why Red Bull associates itself with fringe athletics. Marinkovic joined me by my umbrella. I asked him about the drink, and he stared at the Red Bull can in his hand. But he didn’t say anything about the various promises printed on the back ("Increases endurance," "Stimulates the metabolism," and so on). "It makes a good mixer with Vodka," he said. "And it’s kind of a hangover cure."


Maybe it was the Red Bull, but the beach scene struck me as odd. It wasn't the apparent incongruity of a drink postures as an aid to sporting achievement but is also widely used as a party potion. Nor was it the maddening uncooperativeness of Red Bull's PR flacks, which I'd experienced from the moment I first contacted the company. (I'd originally been invited to ride in one of the boats escorting the kiteboarders to Cuba. Then I was disinvited. Then the trip was postponed and I was invited again. But it was postponed again; from there I entered an information-free loop of shifting dates and contingencies. I finally compromised and decided I would accompany the crew only as far as Key West.)

No, what seemed weird was that this was a marketing event no one knew about. There was no advance press release. There was no Red Bull tent set up to attract local news crews to cover this zany enterprise, or hand out free samples to curious onlookers. For that matter there were no curious onlookers.


"Usually the wizards of branding want to be extremely clear about what their product is for and who's supposed to buy it. Red Bull does just the opposite. Everything about the company and its sole product is intentionally vague, even evasive. While the drink appears to be targeted specifically at someone — extreme athletes, ravers, cosmopolitan students — the brand identity is actually pretty nebulous."


Mateschitz avoids such nagging issues by almost never being interviewed, and my requests to speak with him were turned down flat.

"He doesn't like the media," offered Emmy Cortes, Red Bull's U.S. spokeswoman. But she assured me he is "a very charismatic gentleman" in his "midfifties," single, and "kind of a playboy." Here she added an impish laugh, which seemed a little practiced. "Not even that many people in the company have met — or even seen a picture of — Dietrich. He's almost like a myth within the company." Again with the laugh. Cortes also told me I would not be able to speak with Red Bull’s marketing and strategic planning chiefs for North America, where the drink first appeared in 1997. This coyness, she explained, was of a piece with "the mystique of the brand."
(Hmm, that's just what I want in a guy running my team. Didn't we already have one of those guys?)


"Red Bull has supposedly crafted a strong identity for a specific target audience; the truth is that its identity is purposefully indistinct. Reticence, you see, is the first rule of murketing: Stay silent about what it is that makes you different, and eventually someone else will supply the answers."
(Again, does this strike you as a winning formula to market soccer?)

(Be sure to read through to the end, and note the difference between what happened between Florida and Cuba, and what Red Bull said happened...)
"All of which brings us to the final lesson of murketing, which is: Never let the truth get in the way of your brand’s message."

Makes me feel all warm and fuzzy inside.

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