In all of my marketing classes throughout college, when someone wanted to give an example of a company or brand that marketed an “attitude” or “lifestyle” successfully, they would always mention Nike. And they were completely correct.
For decades, Nike has promoted its Just Do It lifestyle and sports-focused messaging to massive success. In recent years, however, their branding crown may have been stolen. A different company has stepped up their branding, promotion and awareness-building campaigns so much so that they make Nike look lazy, riding their name recognition to continued success. This new king of Branding Mountain is a company with fingers in many pies, sells a product that may seem somewhat limited in customer base, yet is #74 on Forbes Most Valuable Brands (for reference, the next three brands are FedEx, Sony and Volkswagen).
Figured out what that brand is?
I’ll give you a hint – it gives you wings.
That’s right, Red Bull is the best brand-builder in the game right now. But how did that happen? Let’s take a brief look at how Red Bull forged its monstrous branding campaign, and how it can apply to small businesses.
A Branding in the Making
Production began in Europe in the 1980s and crossed the pond to American shores by the 1990s, Red Bull didn’t really make a big splash on public consciousness until the early 2000s. It was in the early part of the 21st century that Red Bull’s new promotion machine starting firing on all cylinders. Now a good number of people reading this may hear the phrase “Red Bull marketing” and immediately think of the company’s simplistic television commercials featuring these incredible illustrations:
While these TV spots are the absolute pinnacle of artistic achievement, they barely scratch the surface of the energy drink giant’s marketing strategy. The meat and potatoes of their branding comes in the form of Red Bull’s awareness-building through association with various high-excitement events, teams and people as well as their model of ownership of these events, media and creative output.
Red Bull’s most visible and effective promotion has been through their sponsorship of extreme alternative sports and activities. Starting with the Red Bull Dolomitenmann (“the world’s toughest team relay race”) in 1988, Red Bull has continued to build a dedicated audience through this vein of completely unique events, from the Red Bull Flugtag (an open competition to fly amateur-made contraptions over bodies of water), the world’s highest inner-orbit free fall and becoming one of the first large companies to fully invest in the sponsorship of e-sports. Take a look at the Red Bull website – their branding has become so much bigger than just an energy drink that if you were completely oblivious to the product, the site wouldn’t give you any clue to what they sold.
Motocross, Alpine climbs, hip-hop fests and ADVENTURE all yell out at you, but nothing about the product. Red Bull’s marketing has cemented itself so much as being attached to its target customer’s lifestyle that it doesn’t even need to tell you about its product anymore. Of course, this is the result of years spent building the brand, but also due to the company’s insistence on having ownership of all their media. Notice that they are never one sponsor among many of any given event or team – they are always the progenitor and sole owner of their events. And notice in that website screengrab the promo for RedBull TV, the brand’s very own live streaming service which is home to all of their video content, from live video coverage of their events to interviews with their sponsored competitors. No other brand in the game can match either Red Bull’s content creation or content promotion, and that’s why they are the new king of branding.
The Small Business Takeaways
So what? What the hell does a multi-billion dollar energy drink company have to do with small businesses in Indianapolis? It’s a legit question to be sure. Small businesses like us don’t have the manpower, the capital, the global reach or influence to put together giant spectacular sporting events. But do know that Red Bull’s branding success does have some very real things to teach just about any business. Let’s take a look:
- The importance of owned media: Nearly every facet of Red Bull’s marketing is within “owned media.” Red Bull’s owned media would be any of the events they put on, their livestreaming service, their website and more. Your owned media will likely be your website, email marketing and content. It does not include any media you pay for (television spots, PPC ads, etc). The importance of your owned media is in how it lays the groundwork for ongoing awareness-building and relationship-building for the future of your business.
- Your marketing is about more than a product. To those familiar at all with the core tenets of content marketing, this is fairly obvious, but it never hurts to refresh yourself on the basics. Red Bull barely markets its energy drink product any more, it markets a lifestyle – a fun-loving, adventurous, sometimes crazy lifestyle. While your company may not have a brand strong enough just yet to have your audience buy into a “lifestyle,” you are marketing more than just a product; you’re marketing aspirations for a healthier life through better nutrition, a more secure financial future with a financial advisor, that feeling of freedom riding a new motorcycle or the nostalgia of playing childhood games.
- The Red Bull Flugtag is simultaneously idiotic and awesome. For real, check this out.
All right, enough of the marketing theory, it’s time to put it into practice. Don’t worry if this seems like a daunting task – Red Bull themselves had to work on it for 15 years until they found the right formula. Start by reevaluating your current content strategy, and how that meshes with the lifestyle of your ideal customer. From there it’s about creating content on your owned media that will become the building blocks for your marketing strategy. This is a process that’s going to be constantly changing and evolving over the lifetime of your business, and we want to help you make sure that lifetime is a long and healthy one. Get in touch with us to plan out your next steps.
Roundpeg is an Indianapolis content marketing firm.