Lessons from Red Bull


They make a sticky energy drink that stains clothes, is associated with vodka, and fuels boozy weekends. Yet, from its high-tech event space HQ, to that world record breaking skydive stunt, the brand is a leader in marketing, and is widely seen as a desirable, sport and music-loving consumable, begging the question ‘how?’
In many ways the answer is simple. Red Bull is an incredibly wealthy organisation capable of (almost) putting a man into space. But then BP could probably start drilling on Mars if the bosses thought the decision wise, evidence (as if it were really needed) that having cash to burn is nothing to do with how consumers perceive a particular brand name.
One look at Salzburg Airport’s Hangar-7 speaks volumes about the drink that gives you wings, and its approach to marketing. Situated across the runway from the main terminal building, the interior is like some James Bond villain’s secret lair. A huge glass and steel dome, inside you can find the only helicopter on the planet capable of performing aerial tricks, vintage stunt planes, various fine dining choices, and a bar suspended from the centre of the ceiling accessible by an architecturally impressive suspended walkway. Oh, and a peripheral gallery.
If you didn’t know Red Bull stood for extreme activities and eccentricity then it’s abundantly clear by now. As is the fact anyone would enjoy attending one of the many events held in this flagship space, which range from art exhibitions to up market office parties, accentuating that there’s more to the brand than air races and jet boats. As does The Red Bull Music Academy, a showcase of cutting edge talent that has taken in cities from Manchester to Tokyo, though managed to steer clear of becoming an awkwardly branded corporate bash.
Logos are kept to a minimum, whilst the emphasis is firmly placed on production quality and choice of venue. Indeed, you could be forgiven for thinking the superbrand was genuinely interested in putting on genuinely interesting performers without obtusely pouring pints of the amber nectar down our throats. And then look at its results, regularly ranking as the strongest company, image-wise, in Austria, and amongst the most innovative firms in any country so far as PR goes.
Elsewhere Red Bull Media House, the content arm, has been responsible for various productions including a $2million snowboarding video. Most firms may have looked to simply sponsor an event, instead those in charge here waited patiently after the initial outlay, and then enjoyed a week at the top of the iTunes sports, documentary, and movie sales charts, earning $10 per download. More importantly though, it re-affirmed Red Bull’s place in the minds of its core customers as a forward thinking firm, and potentially won over new followers too.
Of course these are all enormous sums of money for any organisation’s marketing budget, not least those below the global leagues. But this philosophy only works when it begins at the most basic level. You don’t need a huge spend to acknowledge how, in this day and age, creating a successful brand is about more than blatant advertising. It requires solid sentiments, unique (though not necessarily costly) campaigns and, above all else, a real understanding of how to make the public positively engage with the firm, thus creating a recognisable name.