Is Red Bull the New Coke?

Winsuit flyers against blue sky with sun

What company in human history has understood the power of branding better than Coca-Cola? Every small town from a shanty in Africa to the most rural in America has a Coke sign somewhere….typically on the old drug store or five and dime.

What Coke has taught us, Red Bull has perfected. Coca-Cola is always on the biggest stage – the Olympics, American Idol, the World Cup…’s there making itself prevalent, but sharing the spotlight. Red Bull is different. RBcreates their stage putting focus solely on their brand. StratosFlugtag,Paper Planes, and even its B-Boying Competition BC ONE to name just a few. They control it all without sharing and they come off sponsoring and partnering with the most talented and unique people in the world.

Red Bull – A Global Brand before Stratos

Prior to last week’s Red Bull Stratos project, the awareness of the Red Bull brand has been global. These boys at RB clearly know what they’re doing. In 2011 alone, the company made approximately US$5.8 billion with a ‘b‘ dollars. The iconic cans that remind me of ‘power up’ canisters from hours spent playing video games during my childhood are everywhere.


Brilliant Marketing or Crazy Marketing?

No one in the public domain is exactly sure how much money Red Bull forked out to have their logo on every conceivable space where a camera may capture its image, but more than US$20 million is probably not out of the question. Some speculate up to US$50 million. Whatever the number, many advertising execs think that the ROI on such a huge investment will not pay off particularly when considering that a :30 second spot during the Super Bowl can cost upwards of US$3.5 million and bring huge exposure. The thought process is why pay so much when you don’t need to? On the other side of the coin, what is the cost to be relevant in all markets (not major markets…all markets) in every country in the world?

Consider this for a moment: Outside of the US, how many eyeballs actually care about the Super Bowl? Furthermore, do you even remember who was in the Super Bowl last year much less the commercials that ran during the event? Again…sharing the spotlight versus building the stage and owning the spotlight.

Where Were You When….

For the estimated eight million people that watched the Stratos Project live, it was one of those moments where years from now, you’ll remember where you were when you saw it. Consider this: What media outlet in the world, barring North Korea didn’t cover this story? Every newspaper, news website, news anything covered the Red Bull Stratos project. EVERYWHERE.EVERYWHERE. Red Bull Stratos captured our imaginations and we couldn’t get enough of it! (Imagine if there was a Coke logo on Neil Armstrong’s shoulder when he set foot on the moon?)



So what if that capsule became disconnected from the balloon and plummeted to the desert floor…… or caught fire or fill in any one of the thousands of bad scenarios that could have occurred in front of a live global audience?  How many of us watched and thought it strange that we no longer heard the conversations between mission control and Felix once he reported that the heating in his visor wasn’t correctly working? It was great internet TV…it had me on the edge of my seat waiting for the updatesWould he jump or would he abort?

What if things really did go wrong under world’s scrutiny? Would this have been the greatest marketing mistake ever? Absolutely not. In tragedy or thankfully in the case of success, Red Bull still wins. The only way this would have been a marketing failure is if Felix stood on the edge of the capsule, looked down at the earth and said, “NO WAY, NOT ME!!!! Tragedy or success, the event captured our imaginations and we all were rooting for Felix’s victory because this guy has Red Bull cans for cajones.

If all went wrong, the world’s media would have covered the event even more ferociously and sometimes even bad press is still a mechanism for delivering a  message to the masses.

+1 For Red Bull

Red Bull has upped the ante in guerilla advertisting by inserting itself into a global, newsworthy story. What makes this so brilliant is that the story was created by Red Bull itself and then masterfully broadcasted to the entire world via the one public access TV station that everyone has: YouTube. The success of Red Bull Stratos now captures the imaginations of anyone in modern day marketing. A new day has dawned and Red Bull is rewriting the rule books on how to build a global brand more quickly than most companies have ever seen in human history.

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About James La Barrie

James La Barrie is passionate about marketing and changing a company's service culture. Originally from the Caribbean island of Antigua, James melds his approach of marketing and delivering elite service together as one. James has injected his 'service marketing' approach throughout his career to transform companies from good to great.

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