Posts Tagged ‘risk’

Brands like Red Bull like Felix

So #Felix is no longer just a brand of cat food or a defunct cartoon character, but embodies a new marque of heroism and maverick adventure.  A stuntman extraordinaire, who last night earned much sort after one word equity.

Felix Baumgartner, a 43-year-old Austrian, former military parachutist,  skydived into the record books. Jumping from 23 miles above the earth, Felix reached a mind numbing maximum speed of 833.9 miles per hour (1,342 kilometres per hour)- amounting to Mach 1.24, faster than the speed of sound.

In the midst of all the furore surrounding our new superstar, I’d like to take a moment to celebrate the brand hero who made it all possible – Red Bull.

Over the past 10 years Red Bull has done its level best to own and invest its central ethos into speed, adventure and heroics . From the Flugtag to Felix,  Red Bull has taken the reins, moving beyond usual corporate sponsorship and creating extraordinary events tailor-made to communicate its values,  in an uncompromising pursuit of brand nirvana.

Back in a land time has forgotten I developed a strategic roll out for a net channel, Network of The World: a challenging brand with a passion to be the first footing web entrepreneurs of the new age of information culture. NOW were looking for a big  idea to kick start the brand across the globe. I found a team of adventurers with a big event idea, and they introduced me to Joe Kittinger.

Until yesterday Mr Kittinger was the parachute record holder. His 1960 record was broken by Felix, who Kittinger coached and mentored throughout the development of the jump. Kittinger was the only person allowed to communicate with Mr Baumgartner while he was inside the capsule which carried him into space.

Kittinger was a scarily impressive action man; a real life super hero whose bravery allowed the development of suits used by the Space crews who ultimately stepped foot on the moon. His primitive jumps 50 years ago did not benefit from the technology which aided Felix in the 21st century. His adventure had all the qualities of great stories that capture imaginations around the world. It was dangerous, it was visually captivating, it was a tale of one man triumphing against the odds, and he was ready to work with us to make it happen again.

We spent months working on a means to bring the event to fruition, but alas NOW did not have the resources to enable a edge of space jump back in 1999. Their loss was Red Bull’s gain, and so naturally I have been watching Red Bull’s methodology of delivering the hype for Felix’s jump keenly.

The brand has paid meticulous attention to detail, drilling down to the heroics and the romance of the story, creating a captivating narrative that will benefit them for years to come. They are one of very few brands with the guts and disruptive forethought to own this type of event, and a number of lessons might be learnt from them.

Many, many brands search for global ubiquity. Many are on the constant look out for big ideas, throwing massive budgets behind half pregnant creatives framed by global advertising support. Few ignite the imagination and match a brand ethos. All too often time is wasted on ill considered, flash-in-the-pan stunts that fail to ignite a relationship with the brand. Few invest in the brain power and few have the culture of patience to work through an idea. In a strict risk averse culture, it is almost impossible to nurture Maverick thought, or to embrace the odd personalities with the best ideas.

Yesterday Felix and Red Bull raised the bar. The challenge is clear: just as Baumgartner took Kittinger’s mantel, the global brand that will claim Red Bull’s throne will be the one that is able to contemplate the true definition of the little word with frightening, but powerful, career implications – risk.

Danny Boyle and the Power of Risk

Picture the scene: mad lefty Irishman Danny Boyle speaks to a panel of landed prime ministers, landed wannabe prime ministers, bureaucrats, eurocrats and Seb Coe, a menswear salesman pretending to be a Lord.

His proposal? That, as the eyes of the world rest on London and a thousand dignitaries deliberate where to put their cash, we open our hard-won Olympic games with a kind of New Labour Cirque Du Soleil. There will be Mike Oldfield, there will be peasants, sheep, fluorescent bird costumes and the Arctic Monkeys. The NHS will be celebrated, the Empire ignored. Mark Rylance will figure more prominently than Sir Paul Mccartney. This will cost the taxpayer more than the bonuses of every top city CEO combined.

Hats off to him for his salesmanship, hats off to them for saying yes. Immediately before the ceremony, 43% thought the Olympics worth it. After, this had risen to 52%. The ceremony was praised widely for its idiosyncrasies, irreverence and out-and-out barminess- all recognised as particularly British qualities. Whereas Bejing 2008’s opening ceremony was seen as an assertion of global prowess, London 2012 responded to the needs of the Now! Economy, the need to address an uncertain world with humility, humanity and humour.

The lesson for business leaders? Risk pays. We’re all too often letting caution dominate what we do. The flipside of Danny Boyle’s maverick ideas is the IOC’s over regulation of everything from the brands that are allowed into the Olympic Park to the athletes’ use of Twitter, the constant warnings of overcrowding in London that have led to a huge loss of footfall for central London shops, restaurants, theatres and bars. By all means, stick to your bread and butter 80% of the time. But allow a little risk into your life- embrace the 20% Maverick Factor. After all, if even the Queen is willing to jump out of a helicopter on a parachute for the sake of Brand Britain, what could you do?

Risky Business: The Podcast

For anyone who couldn’t make the event I took part in at the Cass Business School the other week, Risky business: Risk and Reputation, you might like to know that Lloyds and Editorial Intelligence have made a podcast of the discussion, which featured myself, Kamal Ahmed (Business Editor of The Sunday Telegraph), Lord Levene (Chairman of Lloyd’s), Philip Booth (Professor of Insurance and Risk Management, Cass Business School), John Cridland CBE (Deputy Director-General, CBI) and Tommy Helsby (Chairman, Kroll Eurasia). Read the rest of this entry »

Celebrity, Brands and Risk

I’m taking part in a couple of debates in the next few days. First up is Risky Business: Risk and Reputation, an early morning debate on the nature of risk, this Thursday, February 11th, at the Cass Business School. Given the year just gone and the way the financial crisis has played out, it should be an interesting and possibly heated debate Read the rest of this entry »

Looking For the Real Mad Men

I hope you’ll forgive me a brief bask in the news that The Fame Formula has crept back up the Amazon charts and is currently at number 4 in the Film and Performing Arts Bestseller list, as well as moving slowly back into the running in the overall chart.

It certainly seems like the Fame Formula is finding a life of its own again – I’ve recently received a number of emails and tweets from people who like the book. I’m humbled by their praise – and intrigued by one tweet that insists that the book has more to say about the ad industry than most books actually about the ad industry.
Read the rest of this entry »