A few months ago, two of the world’s most successful lifestyle brands joined forces when Red Bull announced that GoPro was going to begin following and filming its Formula 1 racing team.
The announcement reminded me of a conversation I had with a friend at the beginning of the year. He had just returned from the Colorado ski slopes, where he said every kid had a GoPro camera strapped to his helmet as he eased down the mountain’s easiest slopes.
“They’re documenting the world’s most boring ski runs,” he said with righteous indignation, though it had no significant impact on his trips down the mountain. “The sad thing is how freaking epic they must feel when they go over a bump and think they’ve actually gone airborne.”
The kids think their trips down the mountain are epic because GoPro advertisements only show people performing incredible feats of humanity. You see a skier go off the top of a peak and fly for 10 seconds before coming back to earth.
You see a surfer outrace a collapsing wave. You see a climber jump from one dusty red rock to another while his feet dangle over certain death.
Then these words appear on the screen: “Be a hero.”
It’s all very compelling.
Similarly, Red Bull “gives you wings.”
There is no coincidence that the energy drink almost exclusively sponsors extreme sports, airplane races and an annual primitive aviation competition, where people try to launch homemade, man-powered flying machines into the air (but more often land in the water). Look up “Flugtag” if you want to learn more.
When we see a skateboarder chug a Red Bull and then launch himself off of a big air ramp, complete two full rotations and then land, we see a product that really may give us wings.
Sure, none of us thinks we’ll sprout wings, but when we see such great acts of human skill — humans almost literally flying through the air — associated with Red Bull, we make subconscious associations.
We really can’t help it.
Now, Red Bull and GoPro are going to double down on their extreme sports lifestyle brands as GoPro films its incredible Formula 1 team on its path to victory, a path with no speed limits and cars traveling at more than 200 miles per hour.
Consumers seek out these videos because they get to see from a vantage point previously unavailable. The videos aren’t traditional advertisements, but they give a strong brand impression. Even though you can’t race, you can have an exclusive look from inside the car — brought to you by GoPro. All you need is a fan blowing in your face to complete the fantasy of open-wheel racing.
GoPro and Red Bull are advertising a way of life that many people envy. These lifestyles don’t require a camera or energy drink, but for some reason, everyone who lives them has a GoPro or a Red Bull.
The two brands could probably take their commercials off of paid platforms today and still see significant traffic because consumers seek out the exciting and original content. As humans, we want to be a part of something incredible. As consumers, we believe products can do that for us.
The very nature of consumerism suggests that we don’t want to practice skateboarding for hours; we want to buy a better skateboard. Look at weight-loss aisles. We’re still searching for a magic pill when the most tried-and-true method is — and has always been — eating well and exercising.
We want to buy the thing that makes us better.
A more recent example of this lifestyle message comes from a cooler company. Yeti has done an amazing job, through its Yeti Films division, of associating stories of toughness, hard work, endurance and traditional values with coolers. The company took a product most people previously would pay no more than $50 for and started selling it for $300.
What does a cooler have to do with guiding wooden boats through rapids in the Grand Canyon? Nothing. But showing the guide running a straight line through a Class 5 rapid before pulling a Yeti cooler out of the boat and breaking for camp sure looks cool. It makes me want to be a little more extreme.
What does a cooler have to do with a father and son reliving their glory days on the football field? Nothing. But when they’re talking about their glory days while fishing and keeping their drinks iced down with a Yeti cooler, the sentimentality is transferred onto the brand. It makes me long for the day my son and I can look back on our lives together.
Does having a Yeti make you a river guide or a better dad? No. But you sure do feel like a better person when you’re drinking an unusually cold beer in your backyard.
These brands all found their best audience and produced great creative work the audience would enjoy. Red Bull isn’t marketing to Formula 1 drivers, stunt pilots and skateboarders, but it’s marketing to people who like to watch fast cars, adrenaline junkies and extreme couch athletes.
Yeti isn’t marketing to big-game hunters — it’s marketing to people who would like to be televised big-game hunters.
Your brand doesn’t have to be the distraction in between the consumer’s favorite televisions show. You can be the destination for consumers by associating yourself with the desirable content and traits your customers want.
Determine the best version of your best audience, and then advertise to them the way they want to be advertised to. You won’t have to drag them into your branded spaces kicking and screaming. They’ll come on their own and reward you with support.