Red Bull strategy in Japan

Red Bull entered the Japanese market pretty late, it was 2006. Coming from Spain and Switzerland to Japan in 2004 where people drinks tons of Red Bull and finding that there was no Red Bull in Japan was quite shocking to me. After a while I understood that Japan is a very different market and they already have their own particular energetic drinks market. When Red Bull arrived to Japan I was wondering what would happen, if they would success or fail, if they would use the same marketing techniques as they used in Europe or not.

At the beginning Red Bull Japan used exactly the same strategy as in other countries, they tried to give a radical-cool image. There were tons of Red Bull cars around Shibuya and Shinjuku giving away Red Bull cans for free, they tried to place Red Bull cans in good places in convenience stores and supermarkets etc. But after many efforts I never see any traction, I’ve almost never seen Japanese people drinking Red Bull, almost only foreigners drink it. I think one of the big problems of Red Bull in Japan is that they tried to differentiate from the competition too much, Japanese people are used to their energetic drinks bottled in 50ml, 75ml, 100ml or 150ml. For Japanese people, a Red Bull can looks like a carbonated soft drink, not an energetic drink.

Around a month a go I found out that they have launched a new 200ml Red bull can only for Japan, reducing the size 50ml from the standard used before all around the world. I think it makes a lot of sense, with this size they will be able to align themselves as an energetic drink together with the local Japanese drinks competition. Furthermore 250ml of Red Bull was too much for Japanese who are used to little sizes in drinks and food, generally in Japan people likes to taste many different things when eating or drinking, better than eating a lot of only one thing.

redbull
Red Bull in Japan sells now 200ml and 250ml can formats.

Another change I’ve seen is that lately Red Bull is being placed together with other energetic drinks, before it was placed with “normal drinks”.

I think reducing the size of the can is very intelligent. Coca-Cola tried a totally different strategy a while ago, they tried to sell 50cc cans with the same price as 33cc cans. The campaign was called “No Reason”, I think the Coca-Cola people thought that people will get more addicted to Coca-Cola by drinking more… buy I think most Japanese would rather buy the 33cc than buying the 50cc can even if they pay the same price.

“No Reason” campaign didn’t work and the proof is that right now they are also “copying” Red Bull! They’ve just launched a new Baby Coca-Cola here in Japan 🙂 They are also trying to sell “less quantity” and being more appealing to the local market. We will see what happens, I’m sure they will do much better than the Cucumber Pepsi 🙂


Coca-Cola baby only in Japan.


Videos by James

4 Comments
  • oliphant

    April 9, 2009 at 11:11 pm

    isnt that awful.. like we need more children to drink high sugar drinks! though i get they’re trying to make it more kawaii for women..

  • argh

    November 23, 2009 at 10:03 am

    I have looked for red bull here in Tokyo but alas.. can’t seem to find it 🙁

  • Edward

    January 11, 2010 at 10:25 pm

    Japanese Red Bull also has different ingredients and tastes slightly different. It has no taurine.

  • Ryan C

    January 23, 2013 at 9:24 pm

    Interesting, I was under the impression that Redbull was created by a Japanese man.
    Perhaps not nationally I guess.