Felix Baumgartner recently broke the world record for the highest skydive at 128,000 feet. The Guardian had an excellent story today about the partnership between Red Bull and Baumgartner. What I love about this idea is breaking the sound barrier... for the brand.
The "sound barrier" I'm talking about is the clutter of noise in today's multi-channel, multi-media environment. I was writing about this problem back in 1994 when I interned at advertising agency Ingalls, Quinn & Johnson in Boston before Facebook was even a twinkle in Zuckerberg's eye (I think he would have been getting his first pimple around that time). Media clutter has gotten so much worse in so many ways since then.
Breaking through the clutter often requires doing something that has never been done before. For Red Bull, it means an outlandish partnership that could have landed the brand in some trouble if Felix Baumgartner had been injured or killed. But for your brand, the partnership doesn't have to be so outlandish. For example, Barack Obama in 2008 created the world's first true nationwide, cloud-based expert system for elections that targeted voters at the individual level with grass-roots (read: millions of volunteers) targeting. This effort was a huge risk although not to the brand itself. Rather, Obama risked misusing millions of campaign dollars that had traditionally been spent on TV.
I have spoken before about one of my favorite marketing books: Mark Stevens' Your Marketing Sucks. Underneath the unpleasant title are many great tales of how to create breakthrough marketing, like Red Bull's stunt, that push the limit of marketing. His premise, with which I heartily agree, is that if you're not making a spectacle of yourself for the sake of the brand, you're probably wasting your money. If nobody sees the marketing and nobody responds, you wasted the money. Period.