A brand ambassador program is an extremely effective way of raising brand awareness and reaching a target audience. People assign meaning to the brands they like, and brand ambassadors help create that meaning.
While there are plenty of examples of “good” brand ambassador programs, only a handful of companies have gone above and beyond in this area of field marketing. Red Bull’s “Wings Team” is a prime example.
Although Red Bull’s multinational presence and estimated value of $7.9 billion certainly gives them an advantage, smaller companies can still learn from the ingenuity of Red Bull’s marketing strategies. In this post, we will discuss some of Red Bull’s most powerful tactics, and how other brands can learn from Red Bull’s creativity to improve their own field marketing efforts.
What Is The Wings Team?
If you don’t know much about Red Bull’s Wings Team, you might only think of it as it as a bunch of kids driving around in a blue and silver Mini Cooper handing out free energy drinks; but the Wings Team is much more than that. It is a brand ambassador program kicked into overdrive.
It is mostly comprised of motivated and dynamic young people that work within their own communities to establish an identity for Red Bull. Like most brand ambassador programs, the Wings Team seeks out members that are considered “opinion leaders” in their communities. Members are trusted and well known amongst their peers, and Red Bull’s strategy of combining high energy ambassadors with their high energy brand results in a deep connection between company and consumer.
What Makes The Program so Effective?
The majority of energy drink consumers are people aged 18 to 34, which happens to be the Millennial generation. This demographic is notoriously difficult to advertise to, mostly because millennials are extremely adept at filtering out information that they don’t care for.
“[Millennials] are looking for information before they make purchases, but they’re looking for it from their trusted sources, and their trusted sources are not the manufacturers or providers of products,” says Professor Nora Ganim Barnes from the University of Massachusetts Dartmouth.
For a brand like Red Bull, this means that a big portion of their target audience is virtually unreachable by traditional marketing tactics. This requires the company to be innovative in their marketing approach if they hope to catch the attention of these consumers. In order to stand out amongst the competition, they utilize guerilla marketing tactics to capture the spotlight and generate a buzz around the brand.
Wings Team members carry out product demonstrations called “activations”. These activations are unconventional field marketing efforts that create an emotional experience around the brand, as opposed to simply giving away the product to people as they walk by.
Creating that experience is of paramount importance to any brand ambassador program, as research on human decision making shows that people’s purchasing decisions are heavily influenced by their emotions. Consumers are likely to affix values to brands based on personal feelings and experiences rather than product attributes or features.
This is why the Wings Team, unlike traditional field marketers, is not satisfied sending a few reps to a sporting event or college campus for a product demo. The company gets much more creative in order to cultivate an emotional connection with their brand.
We spoke to a former Red Bull Wings Team member, who recalled a few of his favorite activations from his days as a campus rep:
This activation involved staged “air drops” of Red Bull that took place simultaneously throughout the country. The Wings Team strategically placed mysterious wooden crates filled with free Red Bull on college campuses, and then watched the next morning as people went wild over the unusual giveaway.
The activation didn’t smother the audience with in-your-face marketing tactics and broke away from the traditional product samplings people are used to seeing. It achieved the goal of drawing attention to the brand, and a hashtag encouraged the sharing of the event on social media.
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For this activation, the Wings Team was instructed to leave flyers on university classroom desks that said, “It looks like you have a case of the Mondays - here are some Wings. Check under your chair.” When students looked, they’d find Red Bull cans velcroed to the bottom of their seats. This activation got the product directly in front of the user without being overwhelmingly promotional. It was subtle but powerful, and created a positive experience around the brand.
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Saved by The Bull
At the start of a semester, the Wings Team hauled a Red Bull vending machine onto campus, set all the prices to free, and left it there for a day. This was an activation meant to draw attention to new flavors the company had just rolled out, and the team encouraged students to share on social media which flavor they preferred by posting with #ILikeRed or #ILikeBlue and the #SavedByTheBull hashtag.
These three activations are just a few examples of Red Bull’s impressive marketing strategy in action. Creating unexpected situations for product demos gets people talking, draws the attention of potential customers, and creates an emotional reaction to the brand. The next time those people have to decide between Red Bull and another product, they are more likely to choose the brand that has made a lasting impression on them. The Wings Team’s efforts ensure that their product demos are nothing short of memorable.
What Can You Learn From Red Bull?
Red Bull recognizes a few main stereotypes among their customers: the college student struggling to pull an all nighter before exams, the athlete in need of an energy boost, the employee trying to make it to the end of their shift without falling asleep at their desk.
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These people all have one thing in common: they can benefit from what Red Bull has to offer. Understanding where to find these ideal consumers and then bringing the product to them is key for the program’s success.
The exhausted student in the Booster Seat activation is likely to feel grateful when they find a surprise pair of “wings” beneath their chair. That positive experience serves to inform that student’s future decision making when it comes to whether or not to purchase Red Bull.
Other brands can put Red Bull’s methodology into practice themselves by figuring out what it is about the product and the product’s meaning that is most valuable to their target consumer, and then carrying out unique campaigns to establish an emotional connection based on this value. Companies should make it a priority to establish this connection, because emotions are what ultimately push consumers to action.
A valuable product, passionate representatives, and out-of-the-box thinking lay the foundation for an exceptional brand ambassador program. Red Bull leads by example and proves to other companies that creative engagement with an audience is the best way to reach those most likely to become loyal customers.