Intrigued by the success of energy drinks in Japan, Dietrich Mateschitz, 51, quit his job as international marketing manager of German healthcare and toothpaste marketer Blendax-Werke Mainz 10 years ago to return to his native Austria and spent years creating Red Bull. The mixture of caffeine, vitamin B and the amino acid taurin took off in tiny Austria.
In 1994, Mr. Mateschitz started Red Bull's international expansion, tailoring his marketing strategy to Europe's patchwork of food marketing regulations.
Germany, Europe's largest market and Mr. Mateschitz's first target outside Austria, requires a lengthy approval process for new food products. So Red Bull's founder set up a U.K. test market. Once it was marketed in another European Union nation, Red Bull was allowed automatic entry to Germany.
Within nine months, Red Bull became Germany's leading energy drink with a 25.2% unit share, double Quaker Oats Co.'s No. 2 Gatorade, with 12.6%, and Wander's Isostar, with 11.5%, according to A.C. Nielsen.
Mr. Mateschitz backed the German launch with a $10 million campaign by Kastner & Partner, Frankfurt, which had already developed its eye-catching can, in blue and silver with red lettering. The TV, cinema and radio campaign features cartoon characters in humorous situations, with the tagline, "Red Bull gives you wings and revitalizes body and mind."
In the U.K., however, a claim to revitalize the body is considered an illegal health claim. So in the U.K., ads are themed, "Never underestimate what a Red Bull can do."
Last year's move into Switzerland and Hungary boosted sales to 140 million cans and $150 million from the 50 million cans Red Bull was selling in Austria alone. In 1995, Mr. Mateschitz expects to sell 170 million cans as Red Bull hits Spain, Poland and Slovenia.
"In all countries it has become a trendy drink," he said. "Everybody consumes it. Executives, truck drivers and sports enthusiasts drink it because they feel it is good for them. Some don't like the taste, but they drink it anyway."
Looking ahead, he plans to launch Red Bull next year in France, Portugal and Italy, with Scandinavia scheduled for 1997. Then he hopes to be ready for his biggest challenge, as Red Bull charges into the U.S.