Week 7: Red Bull, Feiyue Branding

This week saw the most on-ground applications of tactics in deriving PR coverage. For starters, Ms Tanya Wilson gave us the most detailed example of Red Bull’s surprisingly memorable PR. I spoke to some peers more involved with the entertainment industry and they actually remembered Red Bull’s campaign at World Cyber Games 2008, as well as the 2009 Formula 1 Night Race in Singapore. An account of the campaign by my peer is given after the jump.

“I remember their display booth at Suntec City(A convention centre in Singapore). They had several fridges, an F1 car on display, and skimpily clad racegirls giving away cans of Red Bull.  So the girl gave me one can , and explained to me how Red Bull is very useful when you need to study, and thus makes the world better place. After that, they gave me some health disclaimer; about not drinking more than one can every four hours.”, he said.

“I also remember when they were at the Habourfront Interchange. They had an F1 car stationed in the carpark driveway area. They were also giving out free Red Bull cans, in a similar fashion to  the prior even”, he added. There you have it, proof that subtle PR is better than the proselytising attitude that proactive media relations tends to take. The level of integration with Red Bull’s other sponsorship and activities at this event was also evident: they were themselves participating the Formula 1 Night Race. Owing to the fact that the car itself on display was an actual F1 car at the WCG, the event felt authentic and realistic, improving the media framing effect and momentum which Red Bull was building up.

I would even go so far as to say that of all the case studies I’ve encountered so far, Red Bull’s one feels the most authentic and, dare I say, sincere. It seems to me that they frame their PR campaign in a context of actual real life events like their Formula 1 team competing in the Night Race. While maintaining an F1 team is hardly an affordable method for public relations, it does seem that Red Bull has the funding necessary to pay for the costs. That being said, I question whether they can sustain this kind of heightened-level publicity just through their can-drink revenue. It does seem that they are the most image-proselytising drink in the market, even more so than Coca Cola and alcoholic beverages.

Perhaps it is precisely because of this commitment of genuinely large amounts of funds to causes like F1, because of the irreversibility and permanence of such actions, I am compelled to accept their brand image, although I myself am not clear as to what it precisely equates. I can even recall my strongest memory of Red Bull. It happened during my final full-time National Service exercise in a certain foreign country that has military facility exchanges with Singapore. During the start of the final exercise, a gruelling week-long outfield without any regard for rest, my platoon commander came up to us and passed around a small flagon of Red Bull. We, a small 10+ men platoon, each took a sip from the flagon as it was passed around, and at the end committed ourselves to the mission ahead. I know this sounds like a shameless plug for Red Bull, but there is nothing I can do to convince you otherwise anyway.

The takeaway from the case study of Red Bull is that good PR efforts have strong and continuous momentum that form a crucial part of branding. Not only did Red Bull continuously build up brand reputation by promoting their products at various youth- and motor-orientated events, they also leveraged on their F1 team to create lots of good vibes. At the same time, advertising by means of television, sponsorship, and banners helped further raise the profile of the brand. Thus a good PR effort is indistinguishable from the momentum created by good promotion, media relations, advertising, and other activities in general, because they are all part and parcel of a genuine effort. The PR effort that looks slapped-on as damage control for lousy products always seems fake and may further stoke the flames(remember the Nvidia graphics card case).

The second milestone this week was the French entrepreneur who picked up the Feiyue(飞跃)’s brand coming to our class to give a talk about how we are going to promote the brand. He said he wanted to break into Asia this year. I just wanted to break heads with Feiyue Martial Arts Shoes.

Feiyue Martial Artist

According to an Amazon.com product description, Feiyue’s shoes are the preferred choice for Shaolin monks and masters. Putting aside the utter dubiousness of the claims contained therein, let us look at how the Martial Arts shoe may be the best way to appeal to the South-east Asian market weary of made-in-China products. For one, I have seen a desire to remove the French influence from the Chinese product, and, as it were, “return to the glory of Mao’s years”. Blatant historical inaccuracy aside, I do believe that Chinese as a race would prefer a shoe made for an Asian market rather than a European market. This is because Asian feet are different from European feet and sometimes shoes are better made specialised for a specific racial profile.

For now, I plan to do more research into how to market an “authentic martial arts shoe” capable of accurately representing the aesthetics and functionality of Chinese culture. Perhaps it will be necessary to either lose the French association or totally re-brand itself.

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