Red Bull’s Branding Lessons: We Are All Media Companies Now

Reb Bull Branding on Curatti image

BANG Branding Changed

Figuring out why branding changed is moot. Understanding HOW branding has changed is important. Brands used to create aspirations for customers as this 1958 Tide commercial demonstrates:

Flash forward to this video from Red Bull TV:

What happened?

A: The web, Smart Phones, We Changed, Branding Changed.

There isn’t ONE thing moving brand marketing from Tide as creator of customer aspirations to Red Bull’s understanding of their need to surf their customer aspirations. The differences aren’t subtle and they include:

  • Moving from “brand-centric” (Tide) to “customer-centric” (Red Bull) stories.
  • Red Bull’s editing and visual pacing is 1ox faster than Tide’s.
  • Tide’s once subtle references to “good mothers” use Tide is obvious, garish and off-putting now.
  • The nature of brand storytelling is different (due to the first bullet).

Branding’s focus then and now:

New Branding Diagram Curatti

In 1958 brands like Tide created aspirations and expectations for their customers.  Tide asks questions with a single affirmative response. Questions such as:

  • Do you want to be a good mother? Yes.
  • Do you want OTHERS to see you as a good mother? Yes.
  • Do you want to have clean clothes? Yes.
  • Do you want to protect the environment? Yes.

Tide’s linkage (good mother = uses tide) is absurd NOW. After millions of advertising messages, Moore’s Law, the creation of the web, mobile phones and thousands of TV stations, programs and media increasingly controlled by DIY apps Tide’s 1958 brand storytelling feels obvious and garish.

P&G, Tide’s manufacturer, has been the largest advertiser for years. P&G won the “honor” again last year. It makes sense to be the world’s largest advertiser when customers believe your stories. When brands create expectations advertising works.

Not so much anymore.

Red Bull’s Media Strategy

Money P&G spent on print, TV and coupons Red Bull spends creating ground breaking publications, apps and games. Red Bull’s strategy has distinct phases:

  1. Publish amazing stories across media (video, apps, print magazines, video games, online magazines).
  2. COPE (Create Once Publish Everywhere).
  3. Brand the heroes featured.
  4. Share branded heroes “inside baseball” stories about adventures.
  5. Rinse and Repeat across media types (print, online, video) and platforms (website, apps, social nets).
  6. Curate “Hero-Like” User Generated Content (UGC).

Red Bull buys advertising too. Their budget must be 80% publishing to 20% (or less) advertising in support of their publishing. Publishing is Red Bull’s marketing and advertising. Red Bull is a media company following and feeding the aspirations of customers not the other way around.

Red Bull Bulletin Contents page:

Red Bull Bulletin Contents Page on Curatti

Follow Customer Aspirations

Red Bull doesn’t limit their content. They don’t edit based on what THEY think customers want. Red Bull casts a large net across adventure sports, car racing, video games and music. Their multi-channel strategy is sure to create content their 18 – 30 year old male audience wants, will talk about and share.

Red Bull LEADS as well as following. Their Stratos jump from space is an example of Red Bull’s extending what they know about their customers to create a breathtaking “jump from space”. Stratos is Red Bull’s “advertising” and it was so arresting and awesome for every dollar they spent they must have receivd $10 in free media, shares and brand awareness.

Stratos, Red Bull’s “space jump” (pictured below) is a great example of Red Bull’s marketing lesson. We must create content so awesome the world stops a little to think about what we are doing. If that sounds like a tall order it is because “stopping the world” is impossible.

Impossible UNLESS you extend your marketing and your customer’s aspirations beyond your comfort zone. Out there somewhere long past “comfort zone” is your brand or company’s Stratos Jump. When you find your Stratos a single word explains our content marketing / content curation advice – JUMP!

Red Bull Stratos Curatti

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Passionate cancer survivor, Internet marketer and former Director of Ecommerce who believes in Margaret Mead's quote, "Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it's the only thing that ever has." Glad to be an "Editor of Chaos".

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  1. andycapaloff says:

    This is such a great article, Marty. Red Bull are truly masters of branding. How many years has it been that anyone on the USA has even heard of them? 10, maybe? A few more than that in Europe.

    They certainly seem to have largely shifted from advertising to branding through events.

    The question that comes to my mind about them is, they own sports teams in various countries and spend so much money on sponsorship, advertising and other branding, exactly how many cans of Red Bull do they need to sell to pay for all of it?

    I know this isn’t related to your post, but it does tend to set the mind (or mine at least!) wandering in that direction

    • Andy,

      Thanks for the note and I think Red Bull knows their cost of acquisition like you and I know our checking account balance. They find ways to depreciate content they’ve already created but hardly used. Their picture blog is an example of sharing the pictures they didn’t use in the first publication. This is an example of the “new P&L” media companies must keep – cost of customer acquisition balanced against the Lifetime Value (LTV) of the customer.

      LTV is another number I bet Red Bull knows like the back of their hand. The trick and almost algorithmic requirement is attribution of content creation costs against customer acquisition and LTV. The bigger the Red Bull data set becomes the more sophisticated their attribution (I bet).

      I’ve experienced this kind of attribution arbitrage in my content marketing. As the content data set gets larger the kind of content that promotes the most response becomes more clear. Once there is DATA its possible to create models that assure profitability. Publishing is so dynamic those models must be highly sensitive and almost sentient, but doing anything online sets up such beautiful DATA learning creates greater ROI.

      I predict Red Bull will begin to offload much of their content creation to the brands they are creating. This is the natural migration and setting up active members of your communities as “hall monitors” or content creators dramatically lowers costs even as the content net you are able to cast becomes larger. The best publishers don’t have to work nearly as hard as Red Bull because they learn to pass the keys over to trusted members of their community.


  2. Awesome post.

  3. Great article! “Red Bull is a media company following and feeding the aspirations of customers not the other way around.” – Yes, they live branding every day. If you look at Red Bull you do not see the product in the firs place , what you see is the “Redbullosphere” , that’s beyond marketing, simply brilliant. Thank you for this article.

  4. Jeff Bullas just asked if Red Bull was the best content marketing company in the world ( ). We agreed in 2014 when we wrote this Curatti post about how Red Bull is the archetype of the new media company. Great to see confirmation from a leading blogger.

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