OMFG, he friggin jumped!!
Did you see that, that dude just jumped. From space!! God damn, but that is just friggin crazy!
I can’t begin to do justice to the many incredible human stories swirling around this event. Those stories are being written by others far more qualified. But, as a passionate Challenger Brand fan, I have some license to comment on the Red Bull story.
To me Stratos personifies why Challenger Brand thinking is on the ascension and how, in a marketing world obsessed by catchphrases like “content” and “engagement” real Challenger Brands are leading the way.
Challenger Brands are unafraid of taking risks: How many brands do you know that would emblazon their brand on an event that had the very real potential for failure, calamity, even death? Few Legal departments I’ve worked with would’ve signed off on anything that included the phrases “global audience”, “social media” and “untested”. Yet, Red Bull moved ahead and over-committed, never shying away for a second in giving this their full support.
Challenger Brands take the high ground and transcend the category: Most brands I know would’ve used sponsorship of this event to jam 100 ads down your throat, seen this as a great “captive audience” moment to launch a new variant, spun off a contest to “Meet Felix at an undisclosed exotic Base Jumping location”. Red Bull did none of that. BrandChannel wrote about Red Bull’s flavor variant expansion plans but none of those marketing objectives overshadowed,the Stratos event. In fact, all the footage I’ve seen put the full attention on Baumgartner, the team, the science, the epic unfolding human story.
Challenger Brands have a very clear sense of their DNA: Classically most Challenger Brands come from feisty cash-strapped upstarts who don’t have the luxury of big budgets. Their resultant strategies are single-minded (Hallelujah!!) because they know exactly who they are, whom they appeal to and what they stand for. Look at every single sport that Red Bull sponsors – Freerunning, Cliff Diving or the annual Red Bull Air Race Championship. Can you think of a better association for an energy drink than sponsoring sports that require absolute alignment of mental and physical aptitude? Remarkably in this day of flailing brands, Red Bull hasn’t wavered from this strategy since their inception. They haven’t diluted their strategy by placing large beverage cups in front of judges, created multiple SKU’s or tried to attach themselves to music* in some bland and generic fashion. That kind of strategic discipline is a hallmark of great Challenger Brands.
Perhaps the greatest testimony to the success of this strategic discipline was the results of a Sunday night poll I did of my social networks. I asked “Which other brand could credibly sponsor a man to jump from outer space?” Virgin, another iconic Challenger Brand, was the only other brand folks in my network put forward. Most answers were “We can’t think of another besides Red Bull” That speaks volumes to the equity the brand has created.
I’ve heard all the arguments about why Challenger Brands have it easier than mainstream brands. They’re smaller and more nimble. They have lower shareholder expectations for growth. Their Legal departments are smaller (crazier/non-existent). They’re not part of a multi-national.
I’d suggest those aren’t arguments. Those are excuses.
Challenger Brands have a distinct ethos. Authenticity isn’t a cloak they shrug on and off when convenient. “Engagement”, “Storytelling” and “Idea-centricity” are not new catchphrases for them. It just how they’ve always been.
Isn’t it time your brand made the leap and started acting like a Challenger Brand?
I’d love your thoughts. In the meantime, I have some empty boxes in the garage I’m thinking of jumping from. Perhaps if I charge the neighbourhood kids $5 entrance…
* – Red Bull does sponsor music via the Red Bull Music Academy but, in true RB fashion, it remains niche and underground.
Interested in Challenger Brands – and who isn’t – then Adam Morgan’s London/NYC/Singapore consultancy is the place to look. Find them at Eat Big Fish or @eatbigfish