Six marketing lessons from Red Bull and the man who fell to Earth
As you’ve probably heard, the Austrian daredevil Felix Baumgartner has become the first skydiver to fall at the speed of sound. Does this spectacular marketing success have any lessons for travel companies looking to promote their products?
Baumgartner set a record for the highest ever freefall after leaping into the Earth’s atmosophere from a balloon 39 kilometres above Roswell, New Mexico.
The event drew a lot of social media comment. Even the president of Austria, Heinz Fischer, turned to Facebook to post a message:
“I warmly congratulate Felix Baumgartner on this great success, which was achieved with courage and perseverance and is finding worldwide attention.”
His message received 28,000 likes and 600 comments, showing the importance of talking about what ordinary people are talking about.
Six social media and marketing lessons worth copying
Red Bull was the energy drinks brand that came up with, paid for and broadcast the stunt. The sponsors at the privately owned US company must have looked on nervously as there was a risk they might associate their brand with a calamity.
Everyone at the company must have felt a lump in their throat at the part in the jump when Baumgartner lost control, and the grainy images of him spinning around were switched to shots of ashen faces at mission control. It really felt like they were about to cut the feed, which was delayed by 20 seconds.
1. Create your own story for your brand
In a lesson relevant for travel marketers, Tim Crow, chief executive of the sponsorship agency Synergy told reporters:
“The biggest trend in the last 10 years, and the social internet side of things has merely accelerated it, is that creating your own content has absolutely moved to the top of the agenda. The hackneyed old tickets, hospitality and perimeter boarding model is being left behind.”
In a branding effort that travel companies could appreciate, Red Bull has sponsored the efforts of base jumpers, free runners, snowboarders, cliff divers and BMX riders.
But rather than merely stick their name on athletic gear, they’ve aimed to completely control the media presentation of the sporting competitions.
2. Hire top talent.
Red Bull has also studied lessons in the travel space. They hired Andrew D. Nystrom as global digital marketing director for social media, picking him up from his previous gig as senior producer of travel coverage at the Los Angeles Times’ website where he had proven himself as being innovative in growing a brand’s popularity on social media.
3. Broadcast directly to customers rather than use the mainstream media
The company’s effort to become a content creator has allowed it to avoid worrying about whether or not it can catch mainstream media interest, as it has created an audience of its own that it can reach through its own channels.
4. Give the mainstream media lots of royalty-free versions of your content in multiple formats.
When the worldwide press does come a calling, they’ll love the free content.
Doing something positive and aspirational also has a way of luring in the mainstream media and attracting attention amid all the noise and deluge of information.
Because it is such a bonkers event, the space jump cracked the jaded, crusty shell of journalists. It was a refreshing change to talk about the triumph of the human spirit. Breaking out of their typical narrative of doom-and-gloom, they were eager to share the story, thus amplifying Red Bull’s own efforts with free publicity from the world’s leading broadcasters and online publishers. Ad money couldn’t buy that contextual placement for the content.
5. Have a before, during, and after action plan.
Right after the daredevil landed safely, Red Bull asked followers on Twitter and Facebook what questions they might have to ask him. This push resulted in half of the worldwide trending topics on Twitter being about the company’s event.
6. Watch the details, and be careful of auto-programming messages without safety checks.
But it wasn’t all a smooth drop for the company, as they made a typo when posting congratulations to the stuntman, misspelling the word “count” and writing a foul-mouthed word instead.
The note remained on the site for 3 hours, says The Sun. Whoops.
CORRECTION: A Red Bull spokesperson says the ‘count’ typo that was actually on a fake Facebook page that’s been shut down. I regret linking to bad information.
Sean O’Neill is a New Jersey-based reporter for Tnooz. He is also a daily contributor of consumer news to LonelyPlanet.com.
He used to work for BBC Travel, BudgetTravel.com, and Kiplinger's, and used to live in London, New York City, and Washington, DC.