If you’ve attended a marketing, business or content conference in the last decade, you know how successfully Red Bull uses content marketing. They are experts at content marketing, in fact I used the brand as one of the key case studies in my book Think Like a Rock Star. Red Bull also invests heavily in extreme sporting events, as well as mainstream sports like NASCAR, and even in the thriving E-Sports industry.
Red Bull doesn’t market its product, it markets what happens after you drink it. The brand sets the standard for successful content marketing, and its focus on sponsoring and helping to grow the sporting events that its customers love is absolutely brilliant.
Red Bull does everything right when it comes to marketing, and it’s no surprise that they dominate the energy drink space.
Except…they don’t. In fact, Red Bull may not even be the market leader in the energy drink industry by the end of 2021.
Meet Monster Energy, the Red Bull That You’ve Never Heard Of
What makes the energy drink industry so fascinating is that it doesn’t have one brand doing exceptional marketing, it has two. And this exceptional marketing has helped catapult both brands to own the energy drink industry.
Heading into 2021, Red Bull was the energy drink market leader, with just over 40% of the market. Monster Energy was right behind them with just under 40% of the market. However, Coca-Cola acquired a 17% stake in Monster Energy in 2014, and Monster Energy will be benefiting from Coca-Cola’s distribution channels as part of that relationship. This has led to speculation that Monster Energy could actually pass Red Bull to become the energy drink market leader in 2021 or 2022.
But the purpose of this post isn’t to prop up Monster Energy or really Red Bull either. What I wanted to focus on is how both brands have created incredibly effective marketing strategies. And in some ways those strategies are very similar, and in others, they are quite different. I want to examine those strategies in detail here because there are some key lessons that you can take from both brands to improve your own company’s marketing and give you a competitive advantage in your space.
Red Bull and Monster Energy Both Market Sporting Events, But in Very Different Ways
Both Red Bull and Monster Energy invest in sponsoring athletes and teams at sporting, extreme and esports events. This is very smart marketing, and it helps both brands show customers that they have ‘skin in the game’. It also communicates to customers that these brands are committed to seeing these events grow.
While both brands are active in these events via sponsorships, their marketing efforts are slightly different. Red Bull works to associate itself with the athletes. Their marketing message is that they help fuel these amazing athletes and help them accomplish these amazing feats. Red Bull sponsors the athletes and then leverages their accomplishments via content marketing. These athletes give Red Bill access to thousands of hours of amazing content, which is a big reason why Red Bull’s content marketing is viewed as some of the best work by any global brand. But make no mistake, the underlying message from Red Bull’s marketing is that these amazing athletes doing amazing things, are doing it because they drink Red Bull.
Monster Energy takes a slightly different approach. The brand does sponsor teams and athletes at events. But while Red Bull’s branding is more about the athletes and how Red Bull helps fuel them, Monster Energy is wanting to position itself more as a lifestyle brand. Monster not only sponsors events, teams and athletes, but the brand also has a major presence at these events. The brand will offer product sampling at events, goes out of its way to connect directly with fans, and also has the famous (infamous?) Monster Girls at their events. While Red Bull is positioning itself to align more with the athletes, Monster Energy positions itself more to interact directly with their customers via events.
Red Bull is All-In on Traditional Marketing, Monster All But Ignores It
‘Red Bull gives you wiiiiings!’ You’ve probably heard that tagline from Red Bull’s commercials many times over the years. The brand heavily invests in broadcast commercials, and it has created some stunners.
When’s the last time you saw a commercial for Monster Energy? Have you ever seen one?
Both Red Bull and Monster Energy are attempting to connect with the 18-30 year-old demographic, especially males. This group has a highly tuned bullshit detector when it comes to traditional advertising and marketing. So both brands are mindful of that in their marketing efforts.
Red Bull works with and associates itself with extreme athletes, and then uses them as sort of ‘influencers’ to connect with the end customer. Red Bull’s broadcast and print marketing efforts focus on the athletes and their amazing accomplishments moreso than the brand itself. This approach of letting the athletes lead the marketing and Red Bull takes a backseat has resonated with customers, who don’t see it as marketing, but rather as awesome content.
Monster Energy focuses more on connecting with customers directly. As you might guess, the brand all but avoids traditional marketing in trying to connect with the 18-30 age group it covets.
Marianne Radley, Monster’s Senior VP of Marketing, explains: “We’re very hesitant about doing interviews for no other reason than focusing on building the brand one can at a time with intimate consumer connections. Our marketing has always been very below the line. We’re mindful of that, so we try to keep our time with the press minimal just so it doesn’t look like we’re pushing so much in your face. Everything we do is genuine and sincere, and we try to keep that for all points of communication.”
Notice Ms. Radley’s comment about how Monster doesn’t want to appear to be ‘in your face’ with its marketing. She’s speaking to her customer base. She knows young males hate promotion, so the second one of her customers thinks ‘this smells like marketing’, they will tune out, and Monster has lost a chance to connect with that customer. As you can see from her quote, the brand is very mindful of how it connects with its customers.
Red Bull and Monster Energy Market Differently, But the Result is the Same
While the two brands market and position themselves in slightly different way, there’s one key element that’s the same. Both brands invest in supporting the athletes and events that are important to their customers.
At the end of the day, both brands are courting the coveted 18-30 year-old male category. This age group is very resistant to traditional marketing efforts, as mentioned earlier. So both brands use different tactics to reach their customers. Red Bull does traditional marketing, but it’s not traditional in how it’s structured. The focus isn’t on Red Bull’s products, but on the athletes and celebrities that use those products. That makes the marketing more interesting and palatable to millennials.
Monster Energy all but ignores traditional marketing. Instead, the brand focuses on connecting with their customers personally at events and through non-traditional marketing efforts.
The results speak for themselves. Both brands command roughly 40% of the energy drink market, and they control over 80% of the market space combined.
What’s the Key Takeaway For Your Brand?
Focus your marketing efforts on what’s important to your customers. Years ago, Fiskars was looking for a way to revitalize interest in a centuries old brand that made a very boring product; scissors. Fiskars started by doing market research into who its customers were, and how they used its product. What the brand found surprised them; Their customers were actually much younger than they assumed, and Fiskars scissors were quite popular among scrapbookers. Fiskars took what it had learned, and applied that to its marketing. They built a community for scrapbookers, and let some of Fiskars most avid scrapbooking customers, run the community.
The community, which was dubbed The Fiskateers, ended up being quite successful for Fiskars in building sales and brand awareness. The lead members of the Fiskateers community were highly sought after by crafting stores across the country. Crafting stores always enjoyed a boost in sales when a Fiskateer appeared and spoke to the customers. Fiskars’ success with The Fiskateers was because the brand invested in the activities and communities that are important to its customers. Just as Red Bull and Monster Energy invest in sporting events, Fiskars invested in growing the scrapbooking community. In doing so, the brand created something of value for its customers, which in turn, created value for the brand.
Think about how your customers use your products, and for what reasons. How can you incorporate your customers’ behavior into your marketing efforts? What are your customers passionate about and how can you sponsor those passions and help them grow?