Dear Red Bull,
I admire you. As an entrepreneur in the energy product sector, to me you are the lone beacon of inspiration. Red Bull represents a brand that cared thoughtfully about branding itself, impeccably about image, and relentlessly persevered through tough times to establish a new product category. Since then, you have come to symbolize not a syrupy, sugary beverage, but a philosophy. While few action sport athletes actually consume your product when performing their feats, you have become the facilitators of their world independent of the product you produce. Your brand makes you an enabler, transformer, and ultimately, the largest brand pushing extreme athletes to put the bar higher.
But there is a problem with how you have come to present your brand. Odd as it sounds, you let yourselves get too big. Not in terms of real size. In terms of image. Diluted image. For the longest time, you were the awesome guys down in the dirt with those whose potential you believed in and supported. Now you are a logo that throws around a bottomless pit of money and prompts athletes to wear red bull paraphernalia in ‘x’ number shots during a competition.
I was watching the Winter X Games back in January. During one snowmobile race, I saw your logo more than 30 times in one 3-minute race. Every banner, course obstacle, snack stand, and human being is plastered with Ra Ra Red Bull! It is numbing. An utterly overexaggered yet underwhelming blast of superfluous branding that is about as ineffecively and ridiculously overstated as this long rambling sentence. It negates the presence of your brand in the same way that seeing the same commercial 15 times on one hour does.
I remember a time when wearing a red bull hat meant something. It meant you were the cream of the crop; a member of an elite few who’s quality and potential was enough to win a sponsorship from Red Bull. In the outdoor sport world, this was sacred. That was the power of your brand. You didn’t buy a Red Bull hat. You earned one. From this position, you were better able to facilitate and inspire. It felt genuine. People looked up to that and the masses wanted to buy Red Bull in part because of that. It was so cool. A brand that wasn’t all brand-y.
Now every upstart with $20 can buy a hat (and they will), every athlete you see is sponsored by either you or a competitor (even if they aren’t that great). While you are still facilitating amazing feats of human accomplishment like jumping out of a balloon from the stratosphere, it seems more because of ‘money that can’ than ‘belief that enables’. When you smack your logo on everything with a surface, it seems overstated and corporate. You are better than that. Your brand use to be built on discretion.
Of course, I cannot deny that what you are doing works. You make money this way. Many will look at my criticism and think I am silly. But I think you can find a balance without oversaturating yourself. Being cool is a tough thing to do, and sometimes it is by being restrictive. To make your logo valuable instead of mind-numbing. Your brand has the power, through its philosophy, to be truly special. Elite. It isn’t the easy way to be a brand, nor is it the common way. But it is, in my view, the best way for you to maintain the deep meaning your brand has for the world you transformed.