It may be a marketing success story, but I don’t think I have ever bought a can of Red Bull. Nor do I expect I ever will. Have you seen the contents? The stuff is toxic! It’s no wonder that responsible governments everywhere are introducing measures to restrict its sale. In fact, in the UAE they are talking about a law that will force retailers to sell Red Bull and the host of look-alikes (Some of which are verging on poisonous) in a separate section of their stores, like cigarettes in the UK. More power to their elbow I say!

However, for those who find that getting through each day is impossible on anything less that a blue funk of caffeine, sugar and half a chemist’s-worth of very nasty stuff, life is going to go a bit cold turkey once the legislators have done their stuff. What happens then for the Red Bull junkies between self-help group meetings? Well, there may be an answer.

Not so long ago an Austrian doctor called Armin Breinl, so the story goes, was introduced to the power of natural remedies at a conference that set him on course to develop two wholly natural beverages – one a stimulant, the other a relaxant.  The marketing guys got onto this and dressed up his concoctions to create a phenomenon in Austria and Germany that is filling the gap on the supermarket shelves created by the marginalisation of the so-called “energy drinks”.

This is powerful stuff (not the drinks themselves, although they are effective, but the concept) because it’s not just about a new canned drink, in fact its two, but, more importantly, it’s an entirely new segment that has achieved traction faster than an adrenalin junky.

I was at the Middle East and Asia launch at the Armani in the Burj Khalifa in Dubai last week. A glittering affair with an appearance by US Bollywood star Nargis Fakhri (No, I’d never heard of her either, but admitting so much on the night was a bit like “The King’s New Clothes” such was her connection with the Middle Eastern audience). Here the two new drinks were introduced to 500-or-so guests amid the spectacle of a drum band on a stage that Jon Bon Jovi would have been proud of.

2B Active and 2B Relaxed, as the drinks are called, are marketed together as a new lifestyle product and justifiably so, but getting the positioning right and the message across is a tricky challenge. So, how are they doing so far? I have to say the jury is out for me on that one.

They seem to have distribution in the UAE, at least the products are on the shelves of some of the bigger second-string store chains, but the key accounts are yet to buy into the concept and without them 2B would be just another, admittedly well-dressed, guest at the party hosted by a plethora of Indian supermarkets and gas stations in the UAE. There are another 26 Asian countries on the schedule for the coming months and if they are going to achieve momentum 2B has to face-off with global brands whose pockets and imagination are a bit deeper. For me the message isn’t quite together. The product is expensive too. Will the adrenaline-junky Red Bull consumer fork out the extra for a healthy alternative? Do they even care that it’s not actually going to damage their vital organs? Time will tell I guess, but this looks like a grown-up product to me, or one that will appeal to the largely sedentary Middle East consumer, for whom the occasional inference that the energy drink (The “thrill” in the “thrill and chill” concept they are promoting) might enhance your performance in the sack, might be the biggest draw,

The easy route would be to focus on the “thrill” twin because it’s familiar territory for consumers, but this neglects the “chill” half of the duo and the lifestyle story that the two combined represents. I get the feeling that the 2B people themselves are undecided on this as I am seeing messages whose emphasis wavers between lifestyle and active. I don’t think they’ve quite nailed the positioning yet.

There are other chilling drinks emerging of course, just as there are new, natural energy drinks around, but there’s surely something special about buying into a lifestyle that embraces both moods and there’s a danger that an opportunity to own that space and remove these products from direct competition may be missed.

But, it’s a bold venture and we can’t have too many of those. I wish them well.

You can connect with 2Bswirl, predictably, on FaceBook, Twitter , YouTube and Instagram. See what you think.

Phil Darby
October 2, 2014

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