Around 40 years ago, Red Bull was a popular Thai drink called Krating Daeng. Loved by the working man for its energy giving properties, it was the go-to drink for anyone looking for an extra lift to get them through a long shift. With its uplifting mix of the holy trinity of taurine, caffeine, and sugar (not to mention the street cred afforded by its long-standing association with Thai kick boxers), it soon took on an even wider appeal, with everyone from students to teachers, office workers to farmers going crazy for the medicinal little tonic. In the mid 80s, Austrian entrepreneur Dietrich Mateschitz happened upon the drink. The word goes, he was suffering with a particularly bad case of jet lack during a business trip to Thailand. A few sips of the caffeinated brew, and bingo - the jet lag as gone. Keen to take his new discovery to the national stage, he modified a few of its ingredients, teamed up with its maker, Chaleo Yoovidhya, slapped a shiny new label on its bottle, and marketed it to the world as Red Bull. And the world liked it. Liked it so much, in fact, that it was soon holding the lion's share of all energy drinks sold. Fast forward to today, and its appeal hasn't diminished one iota with age. Each year, we guzzle down 7.5 billion cans of the stuff. It might not actually give you wings, but it certainly gives you energy... and with the 24/7 lifestyle most of us lead nowadays, who's going to say no to that? Behind the drink's success lies a strong brand image. The blue and silver cans are unmistakable, while the iconic red and gold fighting bulls stamped on their front has become as integral to the brand image as the caffeine content has to the drink. But where did the image come from? Who thought a pair of headbutting bulls was a good choice of logo for an energy drink?
As anyone who's ever wondered into the drinks section of a grocery store will know, Red Bull's emblem is hard to missing. Featuring two red bulls butting heads in front of a gold spot (which some have suggested is the sun), it's a big. bold logo that's instantly recognizable. It's not, however, the same in each and every case. Until very recently, Red Bull sponsored a series of music studios around the world under the name Red Bull Music Academy. Equipped with state-of-the-art equipment, the studios were designed as a breeding ground for creativity and musical endeavor. They also proved the inspiration behind some subtle alterations to the Red Bull logo. Digital creative agency Momkai was the brains behind the project, and decided to use local themes to create several different versions of the Red Bull logo. The emblems, which routinely featured some slight tweaks to the red and gold color palette, were then used as part of the backdrop to interviews and lectures with the academy's students and visiting musicians. The studios, which had spread across London, New York, Los Angeles, Berlin, Amsterdam, Paris, Tokyo, Auckland, Cape Town, Sao Paulo and Tokyo, shut down in the summer of 2020, putting an end to the logo changes for now.
But Why Bulls?
Logos depicting animals may not be unusual (Puma and Jaguar have been trading on their namesake animals for years, after all) but there can't be too many brands who've chosen a bull as their spirit animal (although in honesty, we've not actually counted). So, why did Red Bull decide to go the bovine route? In fairness, the clue's in the name. Popping a cat on a product with a name like Red Bull would be question begging - doing the same with a bull isn't exactly a mystery. But there's more to those bulls than just a happy coincide of a name.
As famouslogos.us notes, the two bulls charging head first towards each other on the front of each can are intended to represent speed, power, risk-taking and aggressiveness - everything, in fact, that the drink itself could be said to represent for the drinker (bar the aggressiveness, hopefully). Bulls are strong, powerful, very rarely prone to a midday nap.... what better animal, then, to represent a drink that's all about energy? And what better complement to those powerful bulls than a color scheme that includes blue and silver for intellect, and red and gold for emotion?
Red Bull may be a global mega brand now, but not too long ago it was a purely Thai concern with a very different name. Krating Daeng... doesn't sound a lot like Red Bull, does it? Actually, it's the exact same thing. Daeng is Thai for red, while krating is a large species of wild bovine native to South Asia.Put the two together and what do you get? You guessed it...
When Mateschitz took Red Bull to the world, he knew exactly what to change and what to keep the same. The iconography of the brand with its famous charging bulls was something that needed no update or makeover. Mateschitz's restraint and courage to leave well enough alone is a key piece in Red Bull's subsequent success. By leaving the brand image untouched, Mateschitz managed, in Medium's words, to leave "a sense of foreign exotics — a bizarre and positive association in the design of the brand of a new energy drink". Even in Thailand where Red Bull is still marketed as Krating Daeng, the iconic bulls can still be found stamped across each can.
If there's one thing every logo needs to do, it's to make a brand stand out. To make it so recognizable and distinct from the competition, customers immediately think of the company when they spot the emblem. And whether you like the image or not, Red Bull's logo does exactly that. It's not the most elegant or classy of logos. It's not got the most understated of color palettes. And as for the font used to spell out the words 'Red Bull'- well, no one's going to accuse it of being subtle anytime soon. But that's kind of the point. The drink isn't subtle and it's certainly not understated. Its big, it's powerful, it's bold.... exactly like the logo, in fact.
Written by Lily Wordsmith
Read more posts by Lily Wordsmith