Red Bull: Kings of Content Marketing

8th March 2018

written by George Hughes

Of all the brands nailing content marketing right now, arguably, Red Bull is the undisputed leader. These guys have transcended from being a single product energy drink brand into a world-renowned and globally acknowledged publisher of media, TV, print and film. From their up-to-date YouTube channel to their television broadcasting, sponsorship of some of the world’s most famous sporting events and having their own Sky Channel, magazine publications, journalism, radio channels and lastly, creating high-end documentary films. They are doing it all, and they have us gripped. But how?! And what’s the secret to their success?

Red Bull was launched in Austria back in 1987 by Austrian entrepreneur Dietrich Mateschitz after a visit to Thailand where he found the energy drink Krating Daeng. At that point, the idea of a carbonated energy drink in Europe had not been heard of nor thought about. The launch of Red Bull signified the beginning of a new product and the beginning of a whole new drinks category. Now, Red Bull has the highest market share of any energy drink product in the world and sells almost 7.9 billion cans every year worldwide (wiki).

How do I hear you say? Red Bull found their audience and customers very early on. In 1988 Red Bull sponsored their first-ever sporting event, “The Red Bull Dolomitenmann”, one of the most challenging relays on the planet. They discovered that the extreme sporting industry depended a lot on the adrenaline, energy and excitement of all people involved and that their product was perfectly suited for this type of audience, thus finding their “niche” and their ideal customers.

They then began to market the absolute sh*t out of it, making a name for themselves in the extreme sporting industry and soon becoming the thrilling epitome of youth and sporting culture that we know them as today. Red Bull got their logo out wherever they could, on TV and at extreme sporting events, and promoted their energy drink to sporting athletes who would then promote the Red Bull brand. Not long after inception, Red Bull had lift-off. They already had 100% market share because no other energy drink had been launched in Europe at that time, so they were very exclusive and therefore very desirable. Soon, they were not just seen as a drinks brand but as a culture and lifestyle brand.

Red Bull now own multiple sports teams across the world in Europe, USA and Brazil. They sponsor incredible sporting events from Formula 1 to the Snowboarding Olympics, work with hundreds of famous athletes. They have their own Red Bull sporting businesses like Red Bull Cliff Diving and, own two F1 Teams. They even have their own track racing game on PlayStation 3. It’s safe to say that they have killed it! People follow them for their content and updates on their activities, like a subscription to a streaming service. They have 10.2 million subscribers on YouTube, 14.9 million Instagram followers, 48 million likes on Facebook and 2 million followers on Twitter. Their videos on YouTube get ½ million views, with their most viewed videos standing at 155 million, 92 million and 47 million.

The secret strategy? Well, let’s start with Red Bull’s audience. They know their audience intimately and consistently put them first. Quite simply, from start to finish, Red Bull has always put their customers at the heart of their business and focused on making content that they know their customers will enjoy. It’s not just about filming, sponsoring or hosting sporting events. For Red Bull, it’s about creating moments and experiences they can share with their unique audience. They film TV content like Red Bull Rampage 2021, host events like these every year, and make them accessible to everyone and anyone.

They also film documentaries for their YouTube channel like “The Fearless Swedish Free-rider” that are interesting and enjoyable to watch by anyone.

But, their most popular content is stunt videos like the “Felix Baumgartner’s Supersonic Freefall” or their most viewed video from the free-running series “Last Call for Mr Paul”.

Red Bull constantly goes above and beyond (quite literally) and creates content that is mind-blowingly brilliant and better than most of the content produced by major publishing organisations. By putting their customers first and listening to their audiences, they have become the most talked-about brand of our generation. Where their customers go, they go, from music festivals, concerts, art shows to reporting on the latest and trending sports, skate parks to mountain biking, free-running in car parks and paint-balling – they’ve been everywhere, and they’ve done it all!

Sell an experience, not a product

.Red Bull’s marketing strategy is to sell an experience, not a product, and this is something that any business or brand can do. Creating content for your customer and putting the audience first is a strategy that can work for any company. There are many other brands out there that have started to adopt this Red Bull method and become publishers instead of just selling “products”. Volvo is one such brand. They created a documentary series on YouTube titled Human Made Stories: Defiant Pioneers, which features five episodes that look into different human stories like this one titled “Nemo Gardens”, about a man in Italy building an underwater farm.

Patagonia quickly established itself as a publisher on YouTube, uploading interviews, documentaries, short films and long films about the planet, sustainability and people. Patagonia’s Workwear series on YouTube has 15 videos and is still being updated today with new videos, these feature interviews with people who wear Patagonia’s workwear as part of their jobs.

Nike is another brand that is identified through its content. Yes, they sell shoes, but they also share experiences and promote a specific identity. Their YouTube channel also has a lot of documentary content going up onto it that is interesting to watch, like this Waves Not Cycles | Nike x Patta

More and more brands are implementing Red Bull’s strategy, becoming publishers and creating video content for use online. However, no brand has or is doing better than them. They nailed this part of their marketing very early on and have set the tone for any brand to follow and replicate. But, looking at all the brands out there that are following suit is a good sign that the Red Bull strategy works. For businesses that aren’t implementing this strategy, we suggest starting small and working your way up to it. Start with some customer testimonial videos or behind the scene footage of your business and factory, documenting the way you do things and the way your products are made. Just get your content out there to the customers that want to listen and see how they respond. 

If you want to know more about audience-first content, you can read our blog >>What is Audience-First Content?

If you want to know more about audience first video content and documentary filming, you can visit our other blogs:
>> How Brands Can Use Documentary Style Video in Content Marketing.  

Blurred Lines. How Branded Content is Transforming Traditional Broadcasting. 

 

How brands can use documentary-style video in content marketing

                                                                                                                                          

But what is documentary-style video content exactly?

Imagine a documentary you see on television about a subject you are passionate about… it could be anything from rock climbing or emerging music artists to disaster relief or homelessness. Now imagine a brand has taken the initiative to create that documentary content and distribute in online for free without a strong advertising agenda. It’s the newest form of video content that is emerging and there’s a very good reason why it is so successful. Rather than creating a commercial that relies on a big advertising spend to distribute it successfully, by creating free, short-form documentaries, the brand will not only have the potential for massive organic sharing on social media but also to lift its image in the eyes of its customers.

But why is this style of video content suddenly becoming so prevalent?

Video is King

It’s old news that video is the undisputed King of content marketing. Research shows that 60% of online consumers will watch a video before reading any text and video has the highest click through rate of any form of digital advertising (Sismek). Video content is also highly engaging – it is shared across social channels a whopping 1200% more than just links and text combined (Simply Measured). The stats say it all. Any business that is serious about marketing will be taking advantage of video’s many benefits, particularly when it comes to communicating their brand identities and stories.

Cut through the clutter

But in an online world where the moving image increasingly dominates, how can brands cut through the visual clutter and stand out from the crowd? This year, almost 80% of internet traffic is predicted to be video (Cisco). As the quantity of video increases, consumers are becoming more discerning and selective about what they choose to watch, and social media algorithms are changing to weed out the more spammy branded content and click bait from our news feeds. The average modern consumer is advertising savvy and likes to consume media proactively. Consumers are now deciding how and when to interact with their brands of choice and are increasingly rejecting traditional overt marketing and advertising methods.

Quality over quantity

Brands then, need to keep on their toes to reflect the changing online consumer environment when it comes to creating content that their audience will want to engage with. Video is great – but just producing lots of standard video content is no longer enough. The challenge now for brands is to achieve quality over quantity. Video content creation is moving into a more strategic and thoughtful phase. As the emphasis shifts towards longer form, more meaningful and memorable content that consumers actively want to watch, and that social channels reward, documentary-style branded video is coming into its own.

The rise of the documentary-style branded video

‘Storytelling’ is the marketing buzzword du jour, and video content naturally lends itself to this method of communicating brand identity. The documentary-style branded video takes this idea a step further. If stories are universally appealing to audiences, a short film or documentary style video offers a bigger and better vehicle for delivering them than a traditional short-form video. Reflecting the move away from overt marketing, documentary-style video provides a way for brands to use other people’s stories to indirectly communicate something about themselves. By using the longer-form story-centric format, they can make the most of dramatic and emotional elements thereby attracting and retaining viewers. It gives brands a chance to be creative, to target particular audiences with specifically tailored content, and above all, it helps them stand out from the crowd.

 

The brands leading the way in documentary-style video

These forward-thinking brands are showing how the investment can really pay off in terms of profile and engagement:

 

Volvo – Human Made Stories

Documentary-style content is an effective way of aligning your brand with certain values. Last year Volvo partnered with Sky Atlantic to produce a series of inspiring short films centring on the emotional impact of human innovation. ‘Nemo’s Garden’, the first in the series, tells the story of an Italian father and son who come up with a system to grow crops in the ocean in response to the problems caused by climate change and the declining viability of existing farmland. The stories have compelling emotional and dramatic impact – and effectively communicate Volvo’s commitment to innovation, along with its human and progressive values.

 

 

Coors Light

The beer giant recently moved into documentary-style film to differentiate itself from other similar popular beer brands and to shift away from its light and jokey image. In a series of real-life stories celebrating diversity and focusing on overcoming adversity, Coors have been trying to assert their authenticity and market their product ‘in real-life settings and scenarios’. The first spot, ‘My Climb. My Story’, features Shezi, An LA Based fashion designer who is battling a tumour. The film documents his fight back to fitness and the re-launch of his business. The Coors branding is subtle and the product only appears in the final launch party scene reflecting the move towards more indirect forms of marketing content.

 

 

 

Stella Artois – Our Dream of Water

Documentary-style film making allows brands to tackle serious issues and communicate ‘socially-conscious’ values. Having been collaborating with water charity water.org on the Buy a Lady a Drink campaign, Stella Artois then partnered with National Geographic to commission an award winning film director to make a documentary highlighting the impact of the global water crisis on communities around the world, particularly focusing on women.

They further invested in documentary by then sponsoring the Women in Film organisation to provide four $25,000 grants to women film-makers making socially conscious documentaries, especially those focusing on water. This socially conscious branding is great news for charities of course, but is obviously primarily a shrewd marketing move by Stella Artois. Female beer drinkers are occupying an increasing share of the market and research shows that women are more ‘socially minded’ than men. Stella has clearly adopted a female targeted marketing strategy and is using documentary film successfully to achieve its goals.

 

 

 

Patagonia – Worn Wear

Outdoor clothing brand Patagonia uses documentary film brilliantly to express passion and authenticity through compelling storytelling. One notable film they produced is ‘Worn Wear’ – a documentary with a simple premise – the ‘stories we wear’. Starting with the founder explaining how his love for mountaineering led him to turn his passion into a business, the film goes on to feature Patagonia customers talking about the clothing they have bought, and how it has served them over the years and through different adventures. The whole film is beautifully shot, and emphasises the company’s integrity. They are not giving the hard sell – just illustrating the quality and durability of their products through honest human stories, whilst also communicating their brand values of wholesome outdoor activity and environmental awareness. A perfect piece of inspirational documentary marketing.

 

 

 

Documentary-style content without the price tag

There’s a common misconception that only the biggest brands have the budget and resources to create documentary -style content. That couldn’t be further from the truth. With advances in affordable camera technology and the growing talent pool, video is cheaper to create today than it has ever been in history. It means video production companies can create documentary-style content for any small to medium size business. For now, its mainly the big brands who have cottoned on to its value as a marketing tool.. watch this space as the smaller brands start to catch up.

 

 

Small Films’ founder George Hughes spent 15 years producing and directing content for TV broadcast including serious documentary. For more information about how Small Films can help you with engaging documentary marketing content, contact us here.

Small Films are video content specialists. By combining strategic minds with the creative flair we create powerful stories with video that deeply resonate with audiences, supporting our clients to achieve their ambitions in growing their organisation, brand or campaign.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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