Create your own Red Bull-style publishing arm

Felix-baumgartner in space Red Bull's media arm came to prominence with Felix Baumgartner's record-breaking leap

The fact that Red Bull’s content marketing enjoys such high standing among marketers stems largely from the creation of its media arm – The Media House – eight years ago. So far as the public is concerned, it is possibly best known for its coverage of Felix Baumgartner’s record-breaking leap from outer space to Earth, which got 10 million views on YouTube.

In seeking to provide both quality and quantity, the company’s approach has clearly paid off. However there’s more to it than that, because Red Bull set out to establish its own publishing arm from the outset. Cynics might say that not every company is a Red Bull, but in reality you don’t need to be. What Red Bull did is scalable for both big and small, B2B or B2C.

Brand message

First things first. Before you write a word, work out what your brand message is and make sure it is a simple one. A good example of a clear brand strategy comes courtesy of Marriott. The hotel chain’s content marketing is all about the thrill of travel. Its films may revolve around different plots, but the idea of travel and different cultures provides a common theme.

Your platform

Assuming you know the brand, the next stage is content. If you are acting like a publishing house, there is a definite benefit to launching your own magazine or content platform. Adding a blog section to your site is good for SEO, but owning your own title can beat this hands down. For an example look at Xerox’s Chief Optimist.

Quality content

What does quality mean? First and foremost, your content should be good enough to appear in the publication you are trying to emulate. From the Financial Times to Dry Cleaning News, copy is read and edited before being released into the wild. You could bring Ernest Hemingway back from the dead to write about travelling around Spain. You’d get 10/10 for the scoop and -5 for any typos.

Simply put, it is about good-quality ideas. But they also need to be expressed in an entertaining way that is simple to understand.

No product

If you’ve watched Red Bull’s output you’ll have noticed one thing is missing: the product. When Baumgartner was about to leave the capsule, he wasn’t drinking Red Bull. Yes, the logo was there. People drinking from a can is not exciting; it does not fit the brand message.

Likewise, Marriott has used its product deftly. Much of the film is shot in the company’s hotels. But it is never overt; you are unlikely to hear characters commenting on the comfortable beds or delicious breakfast. It sticks to the action, which is what the viewer expects. Otherwise, they would be viewing an ad.

Editorial v marketing

Without doubt, there is a need for advertising. Red Bull still does plenty of it. The trick is not to confuse the two. Mix them up and you will do neither. Focus on one and go for it.

How much?

Content, like any kind of marketing, can be expensive. It is a dead cost. One interesting take from Red Bull is how it attempts to offset this. In the past, it has used co-productions with other brands or companies or even advertising. The drinks maker insists it would rather remain true to its brand message than seek to reduce costs by looking beyond this paradigm.

Conclusion

Creating your own publishing arm can be done; you can even make money out of it. Yet regardless of scale, there are three key rules:

  • Work out your brand message and stick to it.
  • Create consistent, quality content that your audience is interested in.
  • Put the story – not the product – first.

Doing so successfully is a lot of trouble. Once you are there, however, you will not only have an asset that you can access and control, but it will give you a major advantage over your competitors.

Create your own Red Bull-style publishing arm is part of Content24, the blog for London content marketing agency FirstWord.

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