Red Bull owner Dietrich Mateschitz dies

Billionaire global businessman, Formula One figure and philanthropist Dietrich Mateschitz has died at the age of 74 years. The co-founder and 49% owner of Red Bull was working in marketing at Blendax (now owned by P&G) when he discovered Krating Daeng – the drink that would become Red Bull – while travelling in Thailand. Following a few modifications, the iconic beverage was launched in Austria in 1987 and went on to become a global market leader among energy drinks. In a statement, Red Bull noted: “In these moments, the over-riding feeling is one of sadness. But soon the sadness will make way for gratitude – gratitude for what he changed, moved, encouraged and made possible for so many individual people. We will remain connected to him respectfully and lovingly.” 

Nicholas Hall Writes: Red Bull is an outstanding marketing success, and not just because it has sold over 100bn cans worldwide since it was launched in 1987. But the story begins a lot earlier: pharmacist Chaleo Yoovidhya was the son of poor Chinese immigrants to Thailand. He set up TC Pharma which became a success with revenues of about US$300mn and a very nice business marketing stimulants in (I would have to say, boring) brown bottles labelled as Krating Daeng (Red Bull). The consumer audience consisted mainly of truck drivers who needed to stay awake at the wheel while navigating Thailand’s famous traffic jams. Chaleo always claimed that Krating Daeng was a stroke of “divine inspiration” when he launched the brand in 1976. Dietrich Mateschitz was the second “angel” to become involved in the progress of the brand. He bought a bottle to overcome jet lag during a visit to Thailand, saw the immense potential lying dormant within the brand, invested US$500,000 alongside the same amount from Chaleo, and simply reinvented Red Bull, making it an energy drink for sportspeople and other on-the-go individuals, and a sexy lifestyle product for young nightclubbers.

Chaleo died in 2012 aged anywhere between 80-90! He gave various birthdates, maybe to get more birthday presents, and was reputed to be worth US$5bn when he died. Unlike Chaleo, we can be sure of Dietrich Mateschitz’s age, but not his wealth. In 2008 Forbes estimated that Chaleo and Mateschitz were worth US$4bn, but presumably the company is worth a lot more now. I mention these eye-watering amounts just to prove that real innovation can pay back handsomely. And if you say that Red Bull is just 5 cups of flavoured coffee in a can, I think you miss the point that innovation is not just about formulation, but is the whole marketing clothing of a brand. That is especially true in consumer health, where product innovation is frankly quite limited.

And that raises another question: is Red Bull a CHC product? Well, energy is an OTC indication, and every sale of Red Bull is US1.65 (the global average price per can) not spent on, say, Berocca Boost. It remains an aim of our industry to offer consumers and retailers a non-addictive energy product with vast scale, but we are nowhere near … yet!

Join Nicholas and a group of industry experts to explore key trends impacting CHC at our Asia-Pacific e-Conference, taking place online on 23 November. The event will also include the presentation of our Regional CHC Creative Marketing Award. For more information, or to register, please contact elizabeth.bernos@NicholasHall.com.