Who do they think they are?
Arthur Guinness assesses Red Bull entrepreneur, Dietrich Mateschitz
Was Guinness good for Red Bull?
Eponymity is not among the achievements of Dietrich Mateschitz, the founder of Red Bull. In that respect, he is very different from me. No one will ever gulp down a Mateschitz while millions sip a Guinness every year. In other ways the stories of Arthur Guinness and Dietrich Mateschitz are more similar than you would imagine.
Neither of us invented anything.
In 1982, Dietrich, jet-lagged marketing officer for Blendax toothpaste, refreshed himself in the lobby of a Bangkok hotel with a glass of Krating Daeng. The energising effect was remarkable. Thousands of Thai lorry drivers already knew that, because it kept them alert at the wheel on their long and challenging stints traversing the country. Their appreciation of the power of marketing was, however, considerably less than Dietrich's.
Over the next five years, Dietrich set about blending Chaleo Yoovidhya's formula to suit the European palate. He did the same with the name. Krating Daeng, literally the 'red gaur' (a type of bison), became Red Bull. A mythical drink was born.
Photo: Mateschitz, Wikipedia Commons
Photo: Guinness, Wikipedia Commons
Photo: Air Race, seekextreme.com
Photo: Rugby ball, bitterwallet.com
What’s your preference?
There' s a few myths surrounding me too and I'm rather attached to some of them. Yet I cannot accept too much responsibility for inventing the stout porter beer known as Guinness.
Steadfast Christian that I was, I never had an epiphany moment like Dietrich. Porter was an English concoction brought to Dublin by James Farrell of Blackpitts along with itinerant Tewkesbury brewer, John Purser. I was so impressed with its body, colour and taste that I hired Purser's son into my St James's Gate brewery. The Pursers were to be the head brewers of Guinness for over a century, responsible for perfecting the quality of the most famous dark beer in the world. I'm not too proud to acknowledge that.
They needed my yeast extract though.
As a rule, brewers are not good looking men and I claim no exception. My rather large nostrils did me no favours with the ladies, yet I think they had a God-given purpose. They sniffed out the variation of 'British fungus', a type of brettanomyces, that has reproduced enthusiastically in Guinness breweries for centuries. To this day, my secret ingredient is added to the brewing process in every one of the 35 countries licensed to produce Guinness. There's a little bit of Georgian Dublin in every pint of Guinness, wherever it's drunk.
Made any connections?
If you can link the past to the present, we’d love to hear from you.
Marketing was just talk in my day. Dietrich has turned it into an art.
The talk in Georgian Dublin was of rampant drunkenness and disease resulting from the mass consumption of whiskey, poteen and gin, which were only slightly less likely to kill you than the waters of the Liffey (which never went into any pint of Guinness, no matter what the ad men have said!). Porter beer was the life giving antidote. Yes, no word of a lie, it was. In the words of my friend, the Irish patriot Henry Grattan, it was 'the natural nurse of the people'. You see, Guinness didn't really need marketing when I was alive. With a lot of help from my third son, Benjamin Lee, 'Uncle Arthur' became the symbolic drink of Ireland and a cult drink across the world. Because, compared with river water and gin, Guinness really was good for you.
It's not a great leap from the 'Guinness is good for you' slogan of the last century to 'Red Bull gives you wings', even I can see that despite having none of my son Benjamin's sales ability. Red Bull has travelled beyond cult into culture. Dietrich does not define his creation as a drinks company but as a 'cultural company'. His secret ingredient is the idea not the taste of Red Bull. His are not the instincts of a brewer.
Red Bull Air Race
Guinness Rugby ball
Not Dietrich. He has gone beyond the brand identity to a cultural value. Again the idea might have come from us.
Sir Hugh Beaver, managing director of the Guinness Breweries in the 1950s, became involved in an argument over which was the fastest game bird in Europe, the koshin golden plover or the grouse. He realised that there was no book in the world with which to settle similar arguments about records. From that flash of inspiration came the Guinness Book of Records.
Is that so different from Dietrich's investment in extreme and popular sports?
His current portfolio includes:
Meanwhile, we've gone on to sponsor Premiership Rugby. I suspect that means we've lost the lead in drinks marketing. Well, we did have it for over 200 years.
Arthur Guinness’s opinion was interpreted by Will Coe, August 2011
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Nevertheless, I wonder how much the drink I stole from the English has to do with his approach.
Dietrich rarely drinks alcohol. The 'black stuff' may never have passed his lips. However, while studying at Hochschule für Welthandel (now more conveniently known as the Vienna University of Economics and Business Administration) he will almost certainly have come across Guinness as a case study for the power of marketing. It was not of my doing but Guinness became one of the first, if not the first global brand. Thousands of companies have imitated what my successors and their advertising agents have done.