Storytelling for Branding, the Red Bull Way

One of the questions I get asked more often (by Marketing and advertising pros, most of the time) is “Who, in your opinion, is using Storytelling to it’s full extent in their Marketing strategy?”
And although I know there are other brands doing cool stuff, I must admit I have a flaw for Red Bull. And this is why.

In my last year at school in Holland, I had made up my mind to spend (at least!) a year abroad before starting University. I had been skiing in Austria and thought that would be a good place to start. I got a job at a restaurant, working shifts. That was ok, but I was young and wanted to party, too. My Austrian friends introduced me to this local drink wrapped in blue and silver cans. They told me it had all sorts of secret ingredients that would allow me to go dancing in Italy on a Wednesday night and be up and ready to serve coffee n Austria on a Thursday morning. I won’t go into details here, but I can tell you that during the summer of 1992 Red Bull became an unmissable part of my breakfast routine. (I should add here that I never particularly liked the taste. It always reminded me of gummy bears somehow. And liquifying little animals seemed cruel, somehow. But it worked, it gave me wings. And I became a fan).

Nearly 20 years later, this local Austrian brand has conquered the world. Wikipedia will tell you they have done so “using an aggressive Marketing strategy”. Let’s say they’re right. But let’s see, what did and does their strategy really consist of? For almost two decades, their advertising campaigns were different versions of one idea: “Red Bull Gives you Wings”, and displayed the same cartoon style:

Red Bull – Confession

Today, they also use clips from the many extreme athletes they sponsor. A part from that, they have filled our cities with their blue and silver cars with huge size cans on top:

Plus, and here’s the thing: they have always been very active in sponsorship. Back in 1992, they mainly sponsored typically Austrian winter sports like snowboarding, whereas today, projects range from adventure sports and athletics, to aerial and motor sports. And, as I learned yesterday while watching Spanish national TV, they also have a true Music Academy.

What is my point here? Red Bull, before asking themselves “what story they should tell the world”, they have taken action. Today, they have many stories to share with the world, and all are based on the one thing they actually DO, which is helping people to live their lives fully (being it a waitress who loves dancing, an extreme snowboarder who wants to go for the most remote mountain, or a musician who dares to go beyond the known in music history).

Dietrich Mateschitz, Red Bull’s CEO, who one day, sitting at a bar in Asia, stated that “there was no market for energy drinks in Europe, but he would create one“, today, rules the world from his office in the tiny village of Fuschl am See. I still don’t like ground gummy bears, but I do admire coherent, transparent and action orientated people like Mr. Mateschitz. Therefore, I honestly think he is one of the few to use Storytelling to it’s full extent in their Marketing strategy.

He embodies the Screenwriter’s principle “Show, don’t tell”. Or, wrapping it up Snijders’ style: “First, act upon your values, then shape the stories you tell about what you do.”

12 thoughts on “Storytelling for Branding, the Red Bull Way

  1. That’s exactly my point, “Asdf” (I would have appreciated a real name accompanying your comment). Red Bull’s Marketing strategy is entirely based on the story of who they are as a brand. Unlike others, they don’t try and “build in storytelling parts” into their existing strategy. Hope that helps. 

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