Red Bull Stratos: Taking Marketing to New Heights

Last month, while Felix Baumgartner jumped from a record height of 128,000 feet and broke the sound barrier during his freefall, Red Bull was also setting records of their own.

As one Huffington Post columnist wrote, “One small jump for Red Bull, one giant leap for business marketing: Red Bull Stratos may be the most successful marketing campaign of all time.”

The event was seen live on You Tube by more than 8,000,000 people. While over on Facebook, Red Bull’s picture of Baumgarner generated nearly 216,000 likes, 10,000 comments, and 29,000 shares within 40 minutes of being posted.

Red Bull did not set out to create a publicity stunt for social media or simply sponsor an event, more significantly they captured our collective imaginations with a strategic investment that historically has been reserved for government agencies like NASA.

Across social media, 82% of the conversations about Red Bull were unequivocally positive. As a point of comparison, on the same day, Starbucks was the 2nd highest scoring brand with just 25% of the posts being unequivocally positive.

Lessons from Space

Assuming your marketing budget can’t send someone into space, what are the key lessons that can be learned from Red Bull?

According to British journalist Nicola Kemp, the first takeaway is that brands need to have a purpose that fans can connect with beyond helping drive sales.

While those of us in marketing and advertising initially gravitated toward analyzing the metrics that Red Bull generated (after marveling at the actual feat itself), another important area of focus is understanding that brands can create an “I was there moment” and capture the imagination of an entire generation. Red Bull made science fiction come to life for kids and adults alike.

Another important lesson is that brands can connect with consumers not just to improve the bottom line, but more importantly to improve people’s lives. By first enhancing the customer’s life, a stronger bottom line will result.

As Lisa MacCullum Carter, managing director of Access to Sport at Nike says,  “Although elite and professional sport can inspire and encourage young people, it cannot on its own increase participation levels and access. Funding is crucial, but effective change will require unprecedented collaboration and action from governments, communities, corporations and civil society.”

Kemp’s final lesson is her most important. If you don’t consistently invest in and promote your own brand, why should your audience? Many experts believe that Red Bull re-invests 30-40% of its revenue back into marketing.

Even without literally sending anyone to space, radio has traditionally done many of the very things that Red Bull accomplished with the Stratos project. For example, when it comes to capturing the audience’s imagination, we’ve been creating theater of the mind with audiences for decades.

In addition, long before Felix Baumgartner came screaming back to Earth, radio shock jocks have been creating “I was there” moments for their listeners.

However at a time when station budgets are increasingly tight and headcounts are low, the advertisers who have traditionally paid us for access to our audience via a spot schedule, are able to create large audiences by generating their own compelling content.

It wasn’t the size of the marketing budget that gave Red Bull the ambition to turn a dream into reality. More importantly, rather than simply trying to bring your own dreams to life, why not make dreams come true for your listeners who matter most.

To learn more about how your station can cultivate listener insights via a Points of Passion project that generates awareness and engagement amongst the listeners who drive ratings and revenue, contact Andrew Curran, COO, DMR/Interactive.


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