While some brands are still trying to make the (outdated) distinction between different media ecosystems – events, public relations, product placement and the web – Red Bull blew right past them and pushed the limits of communication and science on Sunday, October 14th. Thanks to one little Red Bull with deep pockets, and some 50 million euros to back Red Bull Stratos, Felix Baumgartner became the first man ever to break the sound barrier.

By pulling off the most expensive advertising stunt in history, Red Bull didn’t just break all the marketing rules; the Austrian skydiver’s space mission launched the brand into orbit, stirring the emotions of nearly every person on the planet.

So carbonated water, sugar, taurine… and what else? What is it about Red Bull that makes us dream? How could an energy drink have made such a mark on history?

Flashback to a philosophy that gives you wings:

From brand content to brand culture
The Red Bull Stratos mission perfectly illustrates what the Austrian company has been doing for years – bypassing traditional sponsorship to become a media brand, and more. Today, Red Bull is a content editor, producer and distributor, all at the same time.

With a content creation strategy emphasizing athletic performance, Red Bull successfully implemented a new economic model in which the range of activities far exceeds product features. With this approach, Red Bull’s own unique flavour of branded content has positioned the energy drink company as a producer of legends and, by extension, into the cultural arena.

More precisely, the infamous blue and silver can has become a powerful marker of extreme sports, crossing the popular brand’s DNA with some 500 events it organizes annually.

To drink Red Bull is to jump from the top of the Eiffel Tower with Taïg Khris, to ride with Danny MacAskill or even to snowboard with Travis Rice. In short, to drink Red Bull is to embody the Red Bull values, instilled in the brand by its founder, of pushing the limits and conquering your fears.

An adrenaline culture
Red Bull has risen to the ranks of cultural agent by showcasing a wide array of underground athletic and artistic exploits. By highlighting these completely new and unprecedented sporting events, the brand has gained a devoted consumer following of ardent thrill-seekers.

Whether they are interested in extreme sports or original performances, Red Bull drinkers spontaneously cling to the brand’s symbolic values and participate in its many projects. Such interaction lends credibility and humanity to Red Bull’s cultural strategy, making the brand no longer just a product on the market. This taurine-based, carbonated beverage is now part of a much larger universe due to extreme experiences.

The birth of an aspirational brand

“Sometimes you have to go up really high to understand how small you are.”

-Felix Baumgartner

With a slick content strategy, Red Bull leads consumers by a logic defined by aspiration and identity, a logic in which consumption reflects a world of legends and values. In modern consumer society, we no longer consume to satisfy a single functional need. Consequently, it’s in a brand’s best interest to offer a vision of the world, to embody consumers’ ideological positions and to offer values to which consumers can cling.

In this sense, Red Bull is THE aspirational brand of excellence. Tested and transformed by a whole succession of experiences and events, Red Bull’s DNA takes charge of a series of exploits in our collective psyche. Pushing your strength, your power and yourself to the limit, the more the brand is able to maintain this strong cultural link with its consumers, the more loyal followers it will attract.

To this end, Sunday, October 14, 2012 will long be remembered as Red Bull’s greatest stunt, designed to attract its best brand ambassadors and extreme adrenaline junkies.

Thanks to Red Bull, millions of people experienced intense emotions as they watched Felix Baumgartner plummet through space and land safely on earth, writing himself, and Red Bull, into the record books.

This ‘normal’ man, who is not an astronaut, travelled 39km above the earth’s surface and embraced our wildest dreams at 1430 km/hr. It was a dream shared by over seven million people on YouTube and watched by 80% of the planet.

Mission accomplished for Red Bull.