spring / 2014

The magazine of branded content

Formula (1) for Success. Hint: it’s the pits!

Red Bull’s category-leading publication maintains pole position as an amped-up brand vehicle.
Apr 7, 2014

The Red Bulletin remains the gold standard among branded media properties. Published monthly in five languages (English, German, French, Spanish, Portuguese) with 12 national editions (USA, UK, Ireland, Germany, Switzerland, Austria, France, Mexico, Brazil, South Africa, New Zealand, Kuwait), it’s tempting to say the sun never sets on The Red Bulletin, which has helped position Red Bull as a lifestyle choice, not just an energy drink to be taken with vodka in a nightclub.

They achieve this, practically, with a seemingly bottomless well of editorial resources, with access to celebrities and extreme athletes, and content delivered through engorged social media channels that are the envy of everyone but Oreo.

But as ubiquitous as The Red Bulletin is, the creative forces behind the media property proved to be elusive, the path to reaching them labyrinthine. At times the journalistic effort felt like an extreme sport in itself. Our circuitous multi-national quest of starts and stops that began in California, then shifted to New York, eventually brought us to Anna Berkl, international communications specialist at Red Bull Media House, in Salzburg, Austria, a company independent of Red Bull, the product. She agreed to answer our questions via e-mail about how The Red Bulletin helps position the brand—or not.

Content: When the idea for The Red Bulletin was first conceived, what were some references of other “branded publications” that your team thought was doing a great job?
Anna Berkl @ Red Bull Media House: We don't consider The Red Bulletin a branded publication. The magazine has always been focused on producing compelling content rather than on “branding”—and emulating other publications has never been part of the equation. The magazine covers different topics, with a different design and a different philosophy.

What was the original conception behind The Red Bulletin?
RBMH: The Red Bulletin was founded as a magazine for the Formula 1 paddock, printed there with an on-location printing machine. Nobody had done that before. The initial idea was to inject some humor and fresh perspectives into the tense (and sometimes a bit boring) way the atmosphere of the Formula 1 pit lane is routinely portrayed, and to do this with a proper magazine. So the editorial team created a smart, clever publication for the people in the Formula 1 paddock that looked at Formula 1 from a different angle. A magazine filled with great pictures, good quotes and extraordinary stories—a magazine beyond the ordinary.

Also, part of the concept at the time was to do a limited number of issues (only several hundred) that were very up to date. So The Red Bulletin was printed up to four times on a racing weekend, with the final magazine coming out only half an hour after the winner crossed the line—yet including the race results and some of the best race pix.

Since then The Red Bulletin has evolved to today’s magazine format, which was launched in autumn 2007.

Did you design editorial to align with Red Bull’s corporate goals?
RBMH: The Red Bulletin is published by Red Bull Media House, which is an independent company. Of course The Red Bulletin shares Red Bull’s DNA: since the beginning, the magazine has appealed to readers who are interested in active, engaged lifestyles. But as mentioned, the editorial team is focused on producing fascinating content: stories full of action, sports, travel, culture and music. The Red Bulletin is dedicated to outstanding storytelling with excellent writers, top photography and topics beyond the ordinary.

“We don't consider The Red Bulletin a branded publication.”

—Anna Berkl

What are the metrics to its success? Brand affinity?
RBMH: The Red Bulletin looks at many of the same metrics as other magazines—verified circulation, reach and revenues to ensure a commercially successful print product in the long run. But ultimately, the metrics are a reflection of the most important thing: audience engagement. High-quality, innovative content is key to that engagement.

What are the biggest challenges to producing and distributing your content?
RBMH: The Red Bulletin covers a wide spectrum of international content that reflects the interests of local readers. The biggest challenge is coordinating creation of the content for the global backbone of the magazine (the stories that appear in every country’s edition) and the local stories (which are tailor-made to provide consumers with important local flavor); blending and balancing those two components on a strict monthly deadline. Different cultures, different time zones, and different seasons—a great deal of attention and care is required for a qualitative fine-tuning of each local edition.

Many other brands do look to The Red Bulletin as a great example of branded content. What advice would you give to brands?
RBMH: The journalistic formula is clear: Do good old-fashioned journalism with stunning images, outstanding narratives and excellent visual storytelling. Engage and entertain the reader with content that’s beyond the ordinary.