Entrepreneur
Sales Advertising Business Image Credit: Entrepreneur
Sales Advertising Business Image Credit: Entrepreneur

The Secret To Sales: Magical Thinking?

We’re told that business is rational and logical. But what if that’s wrong? Advertising executive Rory Sutherland, vice chairman of Ogilvy Group, argues that real success comes from defying everyone else’s logic.

Rory Sutherland

Imagine that you are sitting in the boardroom of a major global drinks company, charged with producing a new product that will rival the position of Coca-Cola as the world’s second-most-popular cold nonalcoholic drink.

How would you respond? The first thing I would say unless I were in a particularly mischievous mood, is something like this: “We need to produce a drink that tastes nicer than Coke, that costs less than Coke, and comes in a really big bottle so people get great value for money.” What I’m fairly sure nobody would say is this: “Hey, let’s try marketing a really expensive drink that comes in a tiny can…and tastes kind of disgusting.” Yet that is exactly what one company did. And by doing so, they launched a soft-drink brand that would indeed go on to be a worthy rival to Coca-Cola. That drink was Red Bull.

When I say that Red Bull “tastes kind of disgusting,” this is not a subjective opinion. No, that was the opinion of a wide cross-section of the public. According to marketing lore, before Red Bull launched outside Thailand, where it had originated, the licensee approached a research agency to see what the international consumer reaction would be to the drink’s taste; the agency, a specialist in researching the flavoring of carbonated drinks, had never seen a worse reaction to any proposed new product.

Normally in consumer trials of new drinks, unenthusiastic


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