Arun Sudhaman 16 Oct 2012 // 12:37PM GMT
For an energy drink that began life targeting Thailand's farmers and truck drivers, the Red Bull brand has, quite literally, reached stratospheric heights. Felix Baumgartner's remarkable skydive saw to that, smashing world records and generating the kind of blanket media coverage that other brands must eye enviously. The idea itself deserves plenty of plaudits, as do Red Bull's public relations agencies, notably UK firms Pretty Green and TVC Group. Neither should it be overlooked that Red Bull is a brand that, as P&G's Marc Pritchard told us last week, "runs on PR." Pritchard made the observation while noting that the PR industry needs to up its creative credentials, and he is not wrong. In that regard, the Red Bull story is particularly instructive. The brand has used its association with sports and music to develop the kind of content that people actually seek out, rather than swamping social media with throwaway white papers and infographics. Red Bull's status as an avant-garde, extreme-sports facilitator undoubtedly helps. Yet its approach to content marketing, at a time when few companies appear to have a solid strategy in place, has lessons for even the dullest of B2B brands. The Red Bull Stratos project, for example, had a brilliant idea, consistent with its brand proposition, used to fuel an irresistible narrative. That, in turn, generated plenty of visual content for sharing. If I do have a quibble, it is that the campaign has less in the way of genuine interaction. For a stunt on this scale, you could argue that this concern is irrelevant. Red Bull's magic ingredient, though, is less easy to emulate. The brand has always made much of its mystique, rather than opting for the full transparency that is touted as a requirement of today's 'reputation economy'. With Baumgartner choosing to sit out interviews in favour of resting, that sense of enigma is reinforced. For several years, Red Bull's ownership arrangements were difficult to decipher; announcements about the company's reclusive Austrian chief often played into the notion that he was some kind of charismatic playboy. More than one marketing expert has described Red Bull as an 'anti-brand' - being banned in some countries only increased its appeal. Genuine edginess or manufactured audacity? It is sometimes hard to tell. Other marketers can take heart that, for all of Red Bull's stealth marketing prowess, the company spends huge sums of money on its sponsorship, marketing and PR. And that, if nothing else, is something that every brand can aspire to.