Jenny Chan 陳詠欣
Sep 22, 2014

No 'bull': Energy drink makes its ambitions clear

BRAND LAUNCH: From its name to its direct slogan to its raunchy marketing, Blu makes it clear that it intends to take market share from dominant brand Red Bull.

No 'bull': Energy drink makes its ambitions clear

Blu made an entry into the energy drinks segment in Hong Kong (and neighbouring Macau) in September with a glitzy blue-themed party and a mixologist booth at the Restaurant and Bar Expo. These markets are "easy" launch markets, according to Itzik Nahoom, CEO of BLU Energy Drink Asia. "Hong Kong is the role model of Asia, being modern and high-tech."

Unabashed about taking market share from Red Bull, the brand's marketing slogan is punchy, aggressive and straight to the point: “Blu is the new Red”. The pictured social-media ad (full version here) expresses the brand's intentions in more profane terms. Incidentally, the company claims to have sought official approval from the Obscene Articles Tribunal in Hong Kong confirming that the image of the mounting bulls is not "indecent”.

The new brand has confidence that it will dominate the energy drink market and “blow our competitors out of town.” Red Bull is the undisputed leader in the world's energy drinks market, according to Euromonitor International.

Blu touts itself as the “next generation” drink that does not have the usual bitter aftertastes, caffeine crashes, or excessive prices of other brands. "We are different from Red Bull," Nahoom said. "We are a multifunctional drink. You can drink it as it is or mix it with alcohol. And we are a tastier option than Red Bull that has only one flavour for the past 22 years. Well, two flavours, original and sugar-free. But if you don't like the flavours, there is no other choice."

The cost to manufacture is the same for any energy drink, revealed Nahoom, but 50 per cent of people hate the medicinal-syrup taste of Red Bull, according to his research.

A product of Poland and already present in parts of Asia like Australia, Sri Lanka, India and the Philippines, the brand was developed in 2007 after two years of research found consumers disliked the heart palpitations and acid reflux associated with energy beverages.

Many of Blu's competitor brands contain an average of 160mg of caffeine per can, a level that medical professionals have criticised due to potential negative effects, according to the company. Blu decided that only 80mg of caffeine should be used in its product, which is equivalent to one 8oz cup of coffee or a 20oz Coca-Cola. 

A bountiful range of seven variants for the relatively small Hong Kong and Macau markets—original, sugar-free, and mixer versions with alcohol or fruit juice—will hit the shelves of local convenience stores, bars, restaurants, clubs and sports centres come October. Blu is on its way to entering China, Indonesia, Malaysia, Korea and Japan next.

Nahoom is not planning on spending "billions of dollars" on marketing like Red Bull did on its Formula One sponsorship liveries. He would rather use this money to develop new flavours every year in order to be sensitive to specific market preferences. "The new generation of consumers don't want to pay a high premium for advertising but are thirsty for innovation," he said. "With our smarter marketing and lower pricing [15 to 50 per cent cheaper than Red Bull depending on which Asian market], we will take share from Red Bull."



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