In the mid-1980s, Dietrich Mateschitz and Chaleo Yoovidhya teamed up to create Red Bull. In the late '80s and early '90s, Mateschitz, the company’s CEO, leaned on guerilla marketing aimed at young dance club patrons. If you were a New York City or London DJ hoping to put on a party, chances are you were able to get Red Bull to send over a pile of product with some very attractive individuals to help pass it out.
The company continued their unconventional marketing by focusing on sports – particularly those that have a great deal of fan energy such as soccer, Formula One racing, and extreme sports. By the end of 2012, the energy drink company had sold over 6 billion dollars’ worth of product and sponsored countless sports teams, and most notably, the Red Bull Stratos jump.
The company’s marketing ethos has translated well into social media, perhaps even helping to shape big brand social media marketing across industries. Brand expert David Aaker wrote, “I know of no other brand that has connected with customers so many ways.” A closer look at the company’s social profiles reveals some core tactics.
One of the most remarkable aspects about Red Bull’s social media, is you never see community managers talking about the energy drink itself. Even Nike and Dove succumb to inserting promotional posts in their social – but Red Bull stays pure. Occasionally there are product shots, along with the ubiquitous slogan, “Red Bull gives you wings.” What you do see, over and over, are photographs of people doing remarkable things: surfing, snowboarding, car racing, skateboarding – and usually in some extreme manner. That slogan can be felt in the very content itself.
The brand shares a wealth of beautiful photography and video, but when it comes to words, it goes for the pithy, short-and-sweet, keep-it-simple-stupid school of wordsmithing. Recent Facebook posts featured captions such as: “No better time than right now,” “Flipping spectacular,” and “Never turn down an adventure.”
You might describe Red Bull’s strategy as mainly publishing cool content. The community managers don’t have to spend too much time “engaging” – that’s mostly done by the fans, themselves. If the brand was to come to life and come knocking on your door, I’m sure it would be wearing sunglasses, and not have a lot to say.
For years, marketing experts have been saying that brands need to become publishers, which is exactly what Red Bull did. In addition to the magazines mentioned above, they have created their own record label, a recording studio company, an online radio channel, and more, all of which are under the rubric of the Red Bull Media House.
While it’s doubtful that revenues from the media side of the business will ever make up more than a fraction of the company’s wealth, it does signal that message and content are integral to the brand’s life force.
When Austrian skydiver Felix Baumgartner took the leap out of the balloon capsule that brought him to over 23 miles above the earth’s surface, he broke world records for the highest jump from a platform, highest manned balloon flight, fastest vertical velocity, and the longest distance free-fall. A record was also broken for the most concurrent live stream views on YouTube: eight million. Red Bull knows how to make events an integral part of their marketing efforts.
A photo that Red Bull posted of Baumgartner’s safe landing was shared over 30,000 times within 40 minutes, and generated over 215,000 likes in the same period. Even after the event, a recent video made up of POV videos received over four million views within a week.
Red Bull has come a long way since they were passing out freebies in night clubs.
The Big Brand Theory is an exclusive column for Social Media Today written by Ric Dragon that explores the social media strategies of big brands, both B2B and B2C. Look for the next installment next week. Logos by Jesse Wells.