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.”

Good luck, bad luck

This is one of those stories I would like to use more often.

Once upon a time, in a far away land, there lived a farmer with his family. This farmer had a horse that one day, ran away to the hills. So the farmer and his son had to plow their fields themselves.
Their neighbors watched them working hard and said “Oh, we pity you, what bad luck that your horse ran away!”
But the farmer replied “Good luck, bad luck, who knows?”

The next week, the horse returned to the farm, bringing a herd of wild horses with him.
“What wonderful luck!” cried the neighbors,
but the farmer responded “Good luck, bad luck, who knows?”

Then, the farmer’s son tried to ride one of the wild horses. He was thrown off and broke his leg.
“Ah, such bad luck!” sympathized the neighbors.
Once again, the farmer responded “Good luck, bad luck, who knows?”

A short time after, the emperor recruited all young men to join his army for battle.
The son, with his broken leg, was left at home.
“What good luck that your son was not forced into the army!” celebrated the neighbors.
And the farmer remarked “Good luck, bad luck, who knows?”

If you prefer to listen to his story, Sean Buvala tells a great version on YouTube.
Good luck, bad luck?

Storytelling. Lo que es. (Un post enfadado y algo tristón)

Hoy estoy mosca. Y no es un buen sitio desde el que escribir un post. O tal vez si, lo veré cuando acabe.

Estoy enfadada por la cantidad de tonterías que leo alrededor de la palabra Storytelling. Molesta porque para mi, y para muchos profesionales como yo, es una disciplina que merece mucho respeto y así la tratamos. A cada paso que damos, honramos a los que estuvieron antes que nosotros, a nuestros clientes y nuestros compañeros. Lo hacemos sabiendo que somos herederos de una tradición muy antigua y muy importante para el ser humano. Más de lo que, por lo visto, es consciente.

Las historias dan forma a nuestra realidad. Son la manera que tiene el ser humano de explicarse lo inexplicable. Son el modo que tiene de estar en paz con la vida y la muerte, la salud y la enfermedad, Dios y el mundo. Las historias son vehículos de aprendizaje y de acercamiento. No importa que cambien los medios, ni las modas. Ellas se transforman todas las veces que haga falta para seguir enseñándonos.

Últimamente veo que se aplica el término Storytelling a chistes, anuncios, anécdotas, incluso Powerpoints. Y mi corazón se encoge. Tengo pesadillas, sueño con un mundo en el que las historias que nos contamos son tan pobres y estúpidas, tan planas y simplistas, que como especie ya sólo podremos caminar hacia atrás, como los cangrejos.

Y es que las historias dan forma a nuestra realidad. Si no estamos dispuestos a profundizar para entendernos. Si no queremos explorar para ser mejores. Si nos negamos la duda, lo desconocido y el misterio… Si, en definitiva, sólo estamos dispuestos a consumir contenido “fast food”, despojaremos a nuestra realidad de toda opción de crecimiento y transformación. Caminaremos por los mismos caminos asfaltados una y otra vez y nos preguntaremos porqué estamos tan mal y dónde está la salida.

Hasta el día que ya no habrá salida posible. Porque habremos olvidado crearla.