Little is known about the life of Chaleo Yoovidhya, a reclusive  Thai billionaire who was married twice and had 11 children before passing away on March 17, 2012. What is known about Mr. Yoobidhya is that he came from a humble background, and was a bus conductor, fruit seller, and farmer before starting a venture in 1962 that would eventually make him worth an estimated $5 billion.
That venture was TC Pharmaceuticals, a company that produced antibiotics and cosmetics. One of his products was a viscous concoction  named Krating Daeng, a stimulant that became popular among long-haul truckers and manual laborers in the 70s and 80s across Asia. Its formula based on Lipovitan, a beverage that had been introduced earlier to Thailand from Japan, Krating Daeng would later give birth to Red Bull.
In 1982, Dietrich Mateschitz, an Austrian toothpaste salesman, was on a business trip to Thailand. He discovered Mr. Yoobidhya’s beverage, and was amazed by its jet-lag-curing properties. Mr. Mateschitz started working with TC Pharmaceuticals in 1984, and tinkered with  the recipe before coming up with a sugar-laden, carbonated version for European audiences. In 1987, the eponymous “energy drink” was introduced to Austria.
Selling an energy drink to a market that did not even know such a thing existed was initially an uphill battle. However, as the drink became a popular mixer with booze in clubs and bars, the company broke even  three years after its product launch and entered the German market in 1994, where the product proved to be a hit.
By 1997, Red Bull had become a global brand, much of which could be attributed to their marketing strategy. Over the years, Mr. Mateschitz became less interested in the work productivity angle that had been the genesis of Red Bull and started exploiting every possible association with “energy.” The company sponsored extreme sports events, as Red Bull became linked to “cool,” adrenaline-pumping activities—parkour, rock climbing, cliff diving, you name it. The company also focused on communicating a simple yet iconic tagline: “Red Bull gives you wings.”
In 2003 Red Bull controlled two-thirds of the energy drink market, selling over 500 million cans a year. It is now the leading brand in the US and many other countries, and in 2020, Red Bull recorded 7.9 billion cans in sales, up from over 4 billion cans in 2011.
However, Red Bull’s smart marketing strategy wasn’t without setbacks. In 2014, the company settled a lawsuit against claims of false advertising, including the promise that Red Bull gives you wings. Plaintiff  Benjamin Careathers, a Red Bull drinker since 2002, filed a suit in 2013, claiming the company misled consumers about the benefits of the “functional beverage” that “gives you wings,” ignoring numerous reports that found Redbull and similar energy drinks to have the same benefit as the average dose of caffeine. The company settled for $13 million without going to court.
In fact, Red Bull is a rebranded soda with more caffeine, taurine, B-vitamins; most of the “energy” the beverage claims to give you comes from the mix of sugar and high dose of caffeine, and unless you have vitamin B or taurine deficiency, the added benefit of those nutrients is questionable. Nonetheless, the worldwide Red Bull stampede  would not have been possible had it not been for the smart rebranding.