October 17, 2012

4 Marketing Lessons Learned from the Red Bull Stratos Stunt

by Jaimie Siegle | Advertising Systems Inc.

When Felix Baumgartner fell nearly 24 miles from a space capsule last weekend, more than 8 million people tuned in to YouTube to watch him simultaneously break the sound barrier and two world records. It was one small leap for Baumgartner and one huge marketing leap for Red Bull, which orchestrated (and paid for) the event.

Founded in the mid-1980s by a wealthy Austrian scientist, Red Bull is more than just an energy drink; it’s a lifestyle. The Austria-based corporation sponsors extreme athletes, underground hip-hop artists, concerts, soccer teams, car races and now trips into space. Although Red Bull won’t disclose how much money it took to pull off the stunt, we do know that it was five years in the making and required a few test flights, a custom-made capsule and a very expensive spacesuit. We also know that the event ignited the Twitterverse and other social media channels without virtually any advertising.

Our humble small businesses may never have the budget to send a man beyond the earth’s atmosphere in the name of our brand, but we can learn a few marketing lessons from Stratos:

1. Go big or go home. Reward doesn’t happen without risk, Forbes business news managing editor Dan Bigman wrote in his article about Stratos. “[Red Bull] just absolutely killed it by being absolutely, totally, truly, over-the-top authentic,” Bigman said. “They backed a guy in an insanely risky, old-school kind of venture that was elegantly simple in its principles (go higher than anyone else, jump, live) yet so hair-raisingly sophisticated in its execution (pressure suit, capsule, hours of countdown, etc.) that it grabbed the world’s attention and kept a good part of it on pins and needles for a week, and talking about their brand.” Well said, Mr. Bigman.

2. Build buzz “the grassroots way” by having a solid mission statement and working every day to stay true to your brand and your brand’s fans. Many people drink Red Bull over Monster or Rockstar energy drinks because they, to put it simply, believe in pushing boundaries and following your dreams. Want proof? Just check out this epic Red Bull commercial:

3. Use social media to spread your message. Not every great campaign is a broadcast advertisement on TV. Sometimes, word-of-mouth (and social media) will seem more authentic, and prove to be more effective in the long run. By redistributing your marketing dollars, you can stop saving for that Super Bowl ad and instead buy a rocket ship emblazoned with your company’s logo. (Just kidding.)

4. Be mysterious. Don’t give it all up at once to keep your audience intrigued. It took a lot of research and experts five years to execute Baumgartner’s jump – and a lot of manpower to keep people quiet until the appropriate time. If your business has a big announcement or new product to unveil, give your audience a taste of the icing without a piece of the cake.

Did you tune in to watch Austria-born Baumgartner take his leap? What did you think of the event?

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