Friday, October 26

Mission to the Edge of Space

I've resisted writing about this because I honestly didn't really get it.  And I'm still not sure that I do.  But after finding out in a meeting the other day that this was created and "sponsored" by Red Bull then I obviously just have to comment.

Red Bull Stratos -- a high altitude (to say the least) sky dive.  It's been all over the news, but how did I miss the Red Bull part?

This was a huge jump, scientific study, and social experiment ... but a brand experience too?  Evidently, and evidently in the works (with a ton of planning) for a very long time now.

I get the stunt, I really do.  It's very Evil Knievel.  (if you are too young to know who that is, please don't tell me!)  And I get the scientific study.  I am sure that researchers learned a lot from this.

But is it cool that this is basically branded content?  What if the mission had gone awry?  Sure, Red Bull lives on the edge, but is this too much?  Is the edge of space too far?  If it had been a disaster, would people feel differently about the brand?

So many questions -- and I'm really not dissing it at all.  I love innovation, and this is innovation at its finest in many ways, and it got hundreds of millions of "hits."  It just brings up so many branding questions for me.  Questions that perhaps are rhetorical, and maybe that's the point.  It got me thinking about how far can a brand go without losing its audience.  How far can a brand go?  It seems that Red Bull may have just pushed out those limits.

I do think, though, that part of the problem here is that Red Bull didn't really get enough of the "credit."  The stunt was so big that it over shadowed who brought it to life, overshadowed the team that's been working on it for quite some time.  It seems to be consistent with the brand's strategy, but I don't know that the brand got enough of the credit.  Or then again, maybe I'm outside of the demographic :)

What do you think?  What's your experience?  Jim.

Jim Joseph
President, Cohn & Wolfe NA
Author, The Experience Effect series
Marketing Professor, NYU


  1. I think Red Bull was on strategy here, Jim, although perhaps for the concerns you mention, Red Bull didn't get nearly the value it should have from the sponsorship. Knowing someone who used to do field marketing for Red Bull, his strategy was to find people who dreamed about doing cool, daring experiences. The Red Bull role was to bring the resources to the table to make those extreme experiences come true. From a purely strategic view, Felix Baumgartner is no different than the skateboarder, X Games athlete, or whoever else has the extreme experience dream, but lacks the wherewithal to bring the experience to reality.

  2. And I love that part about it ... a brand bringing resources to the table to fuel what otherwise wouldn't have happened. JIM