In my previous days of ignorance, I used to think that Red Bull had two versions – a Classic version (the gold can) and a typical version (the blue and silver one). I thought that the Red Bull Classic can was the original version of the energy drink and the blue-silver one was some sort of a facelift.
But now I know better.
The blue-silver can is actually Red Bull® Energy Drink and the Classic gold can is actually Krating Daeng (meaning “Thai Red Bull”). Both are different products produced separately.
Red Bull® Energy Drink (the Austrian Red Bull), in its blue and silver tall and slim can, is manufactured in Austria by Red Bull GmbH and sold to consumers in 150 countries worldwide. It is carbonated and developed for times of increased mental and physical exertion.
On the other hand, Krating Daeng (the Thai Red Bull) is manufactured by TC Pharmaceuticals which is owned by Thai national Chaleo Yoovidhya. It is sold in different packaging – 250 ml gold cans or 150 ml brown glass bottles, tastes very sweet and is non-carbonated. Also, it was developed for blue-collar workers, truck drivers, farmers and labourers. If you haven’t realised, the Krating Daeng is only sold in some countries across Asia, and is not of a global presence like the blue-silver Red Bull.
You see, Krating Daeng was around since the late ’70s as a form of tonic for blue-collar workers and long-distance truck drivers in Thailand, as it still is today. Then in 1982 during his travels to Japan and South-East Asia, Dietrich Mateschitz, an Austrian, discovered these functional products called “tonic drinks” which were sold in small bottles. Amazed at its wide popularity in Asia and how it cured his jet lag, Mateschitz saw the potential of marketing such energy drinks in Europe.
According to internet sources, Mateschitz approached the manufacturers of the drink TC Pharmaceuticals, and worked with them between 1984 and 1987 to adapt Krating Daeng to cater to the European market and suit Western palates. Between Mateschitz and Chaleo, they founded Red Bull GmbH and took a 49 per cent share each in the new company. The remaining 2 per cent was given to Chaleo’s son Chalerm, but it was mutually agreed that Mateschitz would run the company.
After fine-tuning the concept of “tonic drinks” and developing a unique marketing strategy, Mateschitz created the Red Bull Energy Drink in the blue-silver can. Positioning it as a premium drink targeting young professionals instead of factory workers, Red Bull was first launched in the Austrian market in 1987. Five years later, Red Bull expanded out to foreign markets, starting with Hungary.
In 2008, Forbes listed the world’s billionaires where Mateschitz was ranked 260th with an estimated net worth of US$ 4.0 billion.
All that you see and hear about Red Bull is the success of the international blue-silver Red Bull – be it Red Bull Racing in F1, or events that Red Bull created like the Red Bull Air Race World Championship, Red Bull X-Fighters and extreme sports, Red Bull Music Academy or the Red Bull BC One. Staying close to its native roots, Krating Daeng sponsors Thai boxing matches, hence you often see the Red Bull logo embroidered on Thai boxing shorts.
In essence, the Austrian ‘blue-silver’ Red Bull and the Thai ‘classic gold’ Red Bull are two different products but with similar brand names and logos. They are allowed to coexist on the market for historical reasons, but in truth, both have different formulas and are also targeted at and positioned for different segments of the market.
This is the logo for Red Bull Austria, the blue and silver can:
This is the logo for Red Bull Thailand, the gold can:
The confusion stems only from the usage of using similar names and logos. The logo of the charging red bulls fighting in the heat of the sun was actually designed in the 1980s when the blue-silver Red Bull was created. It symbolises power, energy, strength and life. Krating Daeng has always been in Asia only, and when the Austrian Red Bull became popular worldwide and more westernised, Krating Daeng took on the same English name.
But really, the blue-silver can is the dynamic Red Bull that has been making statements across the globe with its extreme sports involvements and its association as a young and cool brand. Appealing to both athletes and white-collar workers, Red Bull’s potential grew as it entered the nightlife scene. It became a popular mixer with spirits like vodka, and hence provided further endurance at clubbing, appealing to young people exhausted from working hard all week.
Here’s what I think: Mateschitz was intrigued by this “tonic drink” product that he came across during his trip to Thailand in 1982. To buy the formula ofKrating Daeng was probably not an option or too expensive to do so, thus the fastest way was to work with them. But Mateschitz had a different idea for his “tonic drink” – He wanted something more upmarket, something with a trendy marketing campaign that would go out big and loud across the world. Buying the franchise of Krating Daeng means having to make it the same way with the same formula and same packaging, which isn’t what Mateschitz had in mind. But for sharing the Krating Daeng recipe with Mateschitz, Chaleo would probably want something back in return. And so they became business partners.
Just remember – Red Bull Energy Drink in the blue-silver can has established the energy drink category around the world and is the number one energy drink brand, energising 150 countries around the globe today. Plus, it gives you wings!