This is a internal letter sent by an NYU student intern, working for Red Bull in the marketing and sales department. It is addressed to Dietrich Mateschitz, the founder and marketing genius behind the Red Bull success (which made Mateschitz a billionaire). Shefali Patil is (Spring 2007) a dean's list student in the New York University, Leonard N. Stern School of Business.
Bullish For the Sales.
Bullish For the People
Dear Mr. Dietrich Mateschitz,
Today, people on college and high school campuses, in bars, nightclubs, and lounges are exhilarated and uplifted by our highly caffeinated, high energy Red Bull Drinks. The image of a slender blue and silver can—the image of the fighting red bulls and their accompanying message: “endurance, concentration, and reaction speed during times of increased physical and mental stress”—grabs customers’ attention and fulfills their desires in the everincreasing busyness of today’s life. Since its 1987 inception in Austria to its future expansion into Hungary, the United States, and a hundred companies across the five main continents, you have created, enhanced, and accelerated the phenomena of the energy drink.
As an intern in the marketing and sales department, for the past year, alone, I have seen the impact of your brilliant marketing skills, target-group concentration, and management abilities—all of which have helped make Red Bull’s operations in the United States double each year. Now, reveling in $1.64 billion in sales, we are crushing competitors like Venom, Sobe’s Adrenaline Rush, 180, ISO Sprint, and Erektus.
But, what deeply worries me is that we are hiding complacently behind marketing images promoting extreme activity, loud music, break dancing, dangerous sports, and natural thrills, when in reality, we know that consumers treat our products as if they are daring drugs—drugs to get teenagers andyoung adults high, drugs not all that different from cocaine, crack, or marijuana. These consumers treat Red Bull like “Liquid Cocaine.” Our energy enhancing product is perceived as the party drink or over-the-counter stimulant or amphetamine; and, we know it. We are all too aware that it is used widely as a club mixer with alcohol. So then, why are we not warning our customers that when a stimulant is mixed with a depressant, they will get high without getting sleepy?—or that their bodies will not fatigue when drinking?