Brands

Red Bull’s Greatest Hits

With three million subscribers, Red Bull’s Youtube channel is a case study in the power of awesome visual branded content. One hundred and five of Red Bull’s YouTube videos have amassed at least one million views, proving that the public is thirsty for innovative, visually-stunning content that pushes the limits of what humans are capable of accomplishing — and that they don’t care if it comes from a brand.

Red Bull’s YouTube channel is just one corner of Red Bull Media House, which features a popular magazine, record label, and two film studios. But its sheer success makes it worth examining. Here’s a look at their greatest YouTube hits and the lessons brand marketers can learn from them.

Do What No One’s Done Before

Break records, push limits, take leaps for mankind. For years, Red Bull’s YouTube M.O. has been about doing what nobody has ever done before. The channel’s most popular video (35.5 million views) shows Felix Baumgartner’s supersonic free-fall from 128,100 feet above the earth’s surface.

Two additional ultra-popular videos are dedicated to test jumps for the free fall, where experts explain the mission’s engineering and how it might impact future space exploration. Think of it as a magician doing a magic trick followed by an explanation of how the trick works — except much more awesome because it’s not a trick and it’s IN OUTER SPACE.

Other broken records include Travis Pastrana’s rally car jump (11.6 million views) and Levi LaVallee’s snowmobile jump (6.9 million views). The short clips are easily digestible and perfect for social sharing. Sponsoring groundbreaking activities will always draw attention — just look at how much mileage Guiness has gotten out of the Book of World Records — but if you really want to maximize your impact, it’s all about allowing everyone to join in the experience through awesome content.

Don’t Be Afraid to React — As Long As You Do It Well

Brands can get too caught up in creating new conversations rather than dominating ones that already exist. During the apex of the Harlem Shake viral video craze, Red Bull put their spin on the fad by filming a skydiving version that tallied 6.8 million views. It was way better than all those late-to-the-game agency videos that featured the accounts team stumbling around on the conference table.

Suspend Belief

Red Bull’s Kluge, the Athlete Machine (17.2 million views), is a complex mixture of physics, carpentry, and athleticism. The six-minute clip shows off the brand’s roster of athletes in a chain reaction of connected challenges. Red Bull included more mainstream athletes like Rickie Fowler and Lolo Jones, but the real allure comes from the choreography. The video begs the viewer to ask, “Is this real?” And whenever you can legitimately suspend belief, you have a good chance of getting people to engage.

The setup may be expensive, but for the right brand, tricks and illusions can generate buzz. Powerade ran a memorable video campaign in the early 2000s where athletes like LeBron James and Michael Vick allegedly demonstrated unprecedented athletic feats. People wondered if the clips were for real, and they prompted discussion that jolted Powerade’s public profile.

Tailor Stories to the Platform

The channel’s second most-popular video, “Way Back Home,” racked up 29.2 million views and documents cyclist Danny MacAskill’s trip from Edinburgh back to his hometown, Dunvegan, on the Isle of Skye.

Instead of breaking records, the appeal comes from strong storytelling that shows MacAskill biking on, over, and through beautiful landscapes on his journey. With only a brief introduction and a two-song soundtrack, the film manages to pack an entire narrative into seven minutes and 43 seconds. Marketers looking to build a substantial YouTube following should use this as a blueprint: Pare down dialogue and pack in the visual action. It’s not a surprise that other popular brands on YouTube — PlayStation, Apple, GoProCamera — offer consumers graphical and image-based videos. Red Bull may not be known for technology, but their commitment to curating stunning visual experiences fits perfectly on the platform, and it’s helped them score some big content-marketing wins.

What’s the deal with the Content Strategist? It’s something we created at Contently because we believe in a world where marketing is helpful, and businesses grow by telling stories that people love. Take advantage of our tools and talent and come build that world with us.

Image by Fernando H. C. Oliveira / Flickr.com
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