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How to Sell People Something They Don't Think They Need

From Wall Street to Canary Wharf, among everyone from long-distance truckers to club DJs, a distinctive drink in a blue-and-red can has become synonymous with high performance. So how did a sweet-tasting energy drink become so successful ,and what lessons can small businesses learn from the Red Bull story?

I spoke to the former UK CEO of Red Bull, Harry Drnec. Harry is a drinks marketing veteran who's never followed the crowd, instead he's created new markets for his products. When he was brought in to run Red Bull, the company had sold 3 million cans in 18 months. Twelve years later, they'd sold 2.1 billion cans and made £455m in profit. How did they do it? "First of all we started with a really good product," Harry told me, "a unique product, one that that nobody knew they needed."

So how can you success with a product that nobody knew they needed?

  1. Create a buzz. Red Bull focused on getting people behind the scenes to drink it's product before doing any mainstream distribution deals. Bar staff, club DJs and stage crew drank it as they worked, helping to create an enigma and spread word of mouth awareness.
  2. Have a great product that delivers on a promise. Red Bull promises to stimulate, and whatever your concerns about how good it might be for your health, it certainly does that.
  3. Be unique. When Red Bull entered the market, it created a brand new category for energy drinks, one that many imitators have tried to copy since.
Red Bull's biggest success was in creating a new drinks category, selling consumers something they didn't think they needed. Harry told me what Dietrich Mateschitz, the founder of Red Bull, said right at the beginning: "Someone said to him, 'Where's the market for this?' He said, 'There isn't one. We're going to make one.'"

Inject some Red Bull thinking in to your organization to see if you can stimulate your product or business growth.

Red Bull image by Flickr user viZZZual CC 2.0