Red Bull Case Study


Images,  Sales,  Brands:  How  Red  Bull  Uses  Social  Media To  Achieve  All  Its  Objectives  Red  Bull  uses  social  media  in  several  ways  that  help  to  enhance  its  exciting,  edgy  brand  image.  This  activity  is  important  because  all  marketers  must  be  able  to  identify  opportunities  to  leverage  social  media  effectively  as  part  of  a  marketing  plan. The  goal  of  this  exercise  is  to  use  different  frameworks  to  analyze  and  better  understand  Red  Bull’s  social  media  strategy. Read  the  case  below  and  answer  the  ques tions  that  follow. It  isn’t  as  if  the  social  media  strategy  adopted  by  Red  Bull — the  energy  drink  that  “gives  you  wings” — is  a  trade  secret.  Granted,  the  private  company  has  a  policy  that  discourages  employees  from  giving  interviews.  But  its  overall  strate gy  is  clear  from  its  actions  and  their  outcomes.  The  success  it  has  accrued  from  this  strategy  therefore  isn’t  a  matter  of  doing  things  differently  from  anyone  else.  It’s  a  function  of  doing  them  better. To  begin,  Red  Bull  distinguishes  its  goals  for  lev eraging  social  media  contacts.  Is  it  hoping  for  more  brand  exposure,  or  is  it  pursuing  sales  increases?  Depending  on  its  focus,  it  adopts  distinct,  appealing  methods  that  are  specific  and  unique  to  each  social  media  platform.  Then  it  implements  these  tacti cs  consistently  and  comprehensively,  to  increase  the  chances  that  they  will  be  widely  shared  and  recognized. Social  Media  for  Name  Recognition When  Felix  Baumgartner  (purposefully)  fell  to  Earth  from  127,852  feet  up,  he  broke  all  sorts  of  records.  His  j ump  was  from  the  highest  height  ever  achieved  by  a  human.  During  the  4 -­‐ minute,  20 -­‐ second  freefall,  he  also  reached  greater  speeds — up  to  Mach  1.25,  faster  than  the  speed  of  sound — than  anyone  else  ever  has.  The  event  was  a  breakthrough  on  various  levels.  Bau mgartner’s  pressure  suit  was  the  first  version  to  be  able  to  protect  the  human  body  in  space  but  still  enable  maneuverability.  To  address  the  threat  of  ebullism  (i.e.,  when  liquid  in  the  body  evaporates  due  to  high  altitudes,  causing  a  person’s  blood  to  li terally  boil),  Baumgartner  and  his  team  derived  new  medical  techniques  with  widespread  applications.  His  parachute  also  adopted  a  new  “reefed”  design  to  reduce  drifting,  with  clear  implications  for  airdrops  of  materials  and  supplies. 1 In  reporting  on  all these  remarkable  feats,  Baumgartner’s  name  was  mentioned  frequently — though  not  as  frequently  as  the  project  that  sponsored  his  jump  and  all  the  technology  that  went  into  supporting  it:  the  Red  Bull  Stratos  project.  Every  official  mention  of  the  event  incl uded  the  full  name,  such  that  Red  Bull  Stratos  often  appeared  as  a  single  term.  It  was  not  just  the  Stratos  project.  It  was  the  Red  Bull  Stratos  project. And  what  a  project  it  was,  leading  to  the  creation  of  not  just  scientific  advances  but  also  a  remark able  video.  That  video,  taken  from  the  camera  mounted  on  Baumgartner’s  helmet,  features  vast,  picturesque  views  of  Earth  and  the  sense  of  plummeting.  Red  Bull  immediately  made  it  available  for  people  to  check  out  at  their  leisure.  But  the  real  targets — the  people  whom  Red  Bull  hoped  would  be  most  engaged  by  the  video  and  the  stunt  in  general — were  extreme  sports  fanatics.  These  folks  willingly  put  their  bodies  at  risk  on  a  regular  basis  to  perform  some  cool  stunt  to  cause  their  friends  to  marvel.  For  them,  th ere  may  be  no  better  stunt  than  having  some  guy  fall  from  space. 2 In  full  awareness  of  this  appeal,  Red  Bull  made  sure  that  the  video  was  prominent  on  its  YouTube  channel.  On  the  day  of  the  jump  itself,  approximately  8  million  viewers  streamed  the  video  li ve  and  in  real  time.  Also  on  that  day,  the  number  of  subscribers  to  Red  Bull’s  YouTube  channel  increased  by  a  remarkable  87,801. 3 On  Twitter,  recognizing  that  140  characters  was  not  nearly  enough  to  communicate  the  awesomeness  of  the  stunt,  it  simply  use d  hashtags  and  links  to  connect  followers  to  the  video,  whether  through  YouTube  or  on  a  Red  Bull  site.  Although  Red  Bull’s  main  Twitter  feed  did  not  exhibit  any  notable  differences,  the  dedicated  Red  Bull  Stratos  Twitter  feed  prompted  more  than  20,000  ment ions  in  tweets  by  others  on  that  day. The  Red  Bull  Stratos  Facebook  page  featured  several  photos  during  and  after  the  jump.  Just  one  shot  of  a  landed  Baumgartner,  still  in  his  space  suit  and  on  his  knees  beside  his  reefed  parachute,  prompted  more  than  20 ,000  comments,  more  than  50,000  shares,  and  nearly  half  a  million  likes. 4 Thus  the  example  of  the  Red  Bull  Stratos  project  and  its  attendant  coverage  through  social  media  suggests  several  things  Red  Bull  did  well.  It  knew  its  audience  and  its  own  goals  a nd  it   understood  how  different  channels  could  help  it  attain  those  goals.  To  ensure  that  it  appealed  to  the  target  audience,  it  engaged  them  in  an  exciting,  never -­‐ before -­‐ tried,  daredevil  experience.  Moreover,  it  shared  the  scientific  lessons  learned  throug h  the  project,  to  give  those  who  wanted  it  an  education. But  it  also  spent  a  lot  of  money  to  get  Baumgartner  to  space  and  back  down  again.  And  that  meant  that  it  needed  to  translate  some  of  the  brand  awareness  it  developed  into  sales.  Luckily  for  Red  Bul l,  its  social  media  strategy  also  has  room  for  that  effort. Social  Media  for  Performance Red  Bull  does  not  just  send  athletes  to  space.  It  also  sponsors  them  on  the  pitch,  in  the  form  of  the  New  York  Red  Bull  MLS  team,  which  plays  in  Red  Bull  Arena  in  Harrison,  New  Jersey.  In  one  recent  game,  the  team’s  star  forward  Thierry  Henry  scored  yet  another  goal.  Afterward,  he  leaned,  with  his  right  arm  up  against  the  goal  post  and  left  hand  on  his  hip.  The  pose,  caught  on  camera,  almost  immediately  became  a  Twi tter  meme  as  amateur  photo  editors  placed  him  against  a  variety  of  backgrounds. 5 The  team  was  quick  to  move  on  this  social  media  coup.  It  rapidly  posted  the  photo  to  its  website  and  encouraged  fans  to  vote  for  it  as  their  favorite  shot  of  the  season.  Imm ediately  above  and  below  the  encouragement  to  engage  with  the  brand  also  appeared  links  that  would  allow  fans  to  purchase  tickets  for  a  full  season,  half  season,  or  individual  games. 6 Beyond  these  consumer -­‐ related  uses  of  social  and  mobile  media,  Red  Bul l’s  international  sales  efforts  depend  on  “SoLoMo”  (referring  to  social,  location,  and  mobile)  software.  Users  who  download  the  Red  Bull  app  receive  alerts  on  their  smartphones  about  in -­‐ store  promotions  as  soon  as  they  arrive  at  the  retail  site.  If  they  al so  attend  Red  Bull  events,  such  as  a  flugtag  or  BMX  race,  selected  patrons  might  even  receive  a  special  invitation  to  come  backstage  to  meet  some  of  the  stars  of  the  show. Each  of  Red  Bull’s  mobile  sales  representatives  is  equipped  with  her  or  his  own  ta blet  computer  loaded  with  mobile  software.  Thus  on  visits  to  retail  sites  and  vendors,  the  salespeople  can  provide  the  latest  inventory  information.  They  also  present  detailed  analytics  to  show  vendors  how  best  to  position  their  coolers  of  Red  Bull  product s  and  how  to  line  up  the  cans  in  the  display  case  to  encourage  sales. 7 Combining  the  Uses  of  Social  Media When  you  are  as  good  at  engaging  and  exciting  people  through  social  media  as  Red  Bull  is,  the  next  step  might  be  to  make  social  media  your  main  fo cus.  Although  the  privately  held  company  has  not  publicized  any  such  plans,  commentators  suggest  that  it  appears  poised  to  transform  itself  into  a  media  company  that  just  happens  to  sell  energy  drinks. 8 The  extent  and  amount  of  content  it  creates,  featurin g  extreme  sports  and  even  sports  it  has  created  (ever  hear  of  ice  racing?),  is  similar  in  quality  to  sports  videos  produced  by  well -­‐ known  networks.  If  Red  Bull  can  convince  networks  to  purchase  its  coverage  of  Shaun  White  on  the  half -­‐ pipe,  it  enters  a  new  market.  If  Shaun  White  happens  to  be  wearing  a  hat  with  the  Red  Bull  logo,  well  then  that’s  just  an  added  bonus. Such  predictions  actually  resonate  quite  well  with  what  Red  Bull  already  does  in  social  media.  For  example,  though  it  maintains  a  plethora  of Facebook  pages  and  Twitter  accounts  for  various  events  and  locations,  virtually  none  of  them  ever  feature  pictures  of  its  drink  product.  Instead,  they  offer  exciting  in -­‐ sport  shots  or  humorous  images.  Fans  can — and  do — comment,  but  Red  Bull  rarely  responds. That  may  be  because  its  primary  goal  is  to  establish  an  edgy,  exciting  image  as  a  lifestyle  brand,  which  it  feels  confident  will  translate  into  product  sales. 9 Footnotes 1. Red  Bull  Stratos,  “Scientific  Data  Review,” . 2. Rick  Mulready,  “The  Secret  to  Red  Bull’s  Media  Success  Is  There  Is  No  Secret,”  November  6,  2013, . 3. SocialBakers,  “Red  Bull  Stratos on  Social  Media,” . 4. SocialBakers,  “Red  Bull  Stratos  on  Social  Media,” . 5. Jack  Bell,  “Red Bulls’  Henry  Strikes  a  Poke,  and  Starts  a  Trend,” The  New  York  Times ,  September  21,  2013. 6. . 7. Clint  Boulton,  “Red  Bull  Eyes  ‘SoLoMo’  Software  to  Grow  Business,” The  W all  Street  Journal ,  April  30,  2012. 8. Wall  Street  Journal  Live ,  “Lunch  Break:  Interview  with  John  Jurgensen,”  December  20,  2013, . 9. David  Moth,  “How  Red  Bull  Uses  Facebook,  Twitter,  Pinterest,  and  Google+,” ,  February  21,  2013, . Questions:  1. What  social  and  mobile  media  tools  is  Red  Bull  using? 2. Evaluate  Red  Bull’s  social  media  marketing  strategy  using  the  4E  framework.  Make  sure  to  mention  each  “E”  specifically.  3. How  should  Red  Bull  assess  the  effectiveness  of  these  campaigns?  Describe  how  it  should  respond  to  insights  gained  by  this  assessment. Don’t  forget  to  include  two  chapter  concepts/key  terms  as  well  as  two  external  sources  (one  of  which  should  be  scholarly)  in  your  respons

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