On the cranberry farm … with wakeskaters and Red Bull?!

Thanks to local news source Dane101, I just came across this YouTube video that manages to be both lovely and surreal. If you never thought a northern Wisconsin cranberry farm would be paired with Red Bull wakeskaters, you aren’t alone. That said, Red Bull has a long history of similarly themed marketing efforts. As James O’Brien puts it at Mashable in his in-depth look at the company’s branding strategy,

Red Bull’s universe is extreme sports and adrenaline-junky stunts. Sure, you’ll recognize the familiar twin bovine and sun logo on the skate ramp. And yes, you’ll spy the bulls on the back of the wingsuit. [Head to the full piece for links to the videos O’Brien’s referring to.] But there’s no mention of the actual drink, really. And there is certainly no cut to Red Bull’s now-iconic blue and silver can….

By 2011, [Red Bull founder Dietrich] Mateschitz controlled 44% of the exploding energy drink market, according to Symphony IRI, and was selling 4.6 billion cans a year, most purchased by men between the ages of 18 and 35. They’re voracious endorsers of the brand, and that’s because, with the beverage, Mateschitz commandeered — if not created — a new, high-octane lifestyle category.

To promote the lifestyle, Red Bull built a media house.

OK, but what’s with the cranberry bog? Apparently, it was a crazy, cool idea, just the sort of out-there concept that the company wants for an ongoing web series they’re producing.

This particular video is really two back-to-back features. The first half is a lovely piece on cranberry farming that features Steve Bartling of Bartling’s Manitowish Cranberry Co., which started as a 4-acre family farm in 1946 and now covers 186 acres of cranberries that are grown exclusively for a little growers’ cooperative you may have heard of. The second half features winch wakeskating from Brian Grubb and Ben Horan; we even see a custom ramp built from a locally felled tree. My head is still reeling from the disconnect between the two disparate halves, but don’t let that stop you from checking out the video.

Before you do, though, let’s return to the topic of the Red Bull marketing machine to be sure this is placed in some context. Back in October when Felix Baumgartner made his record-setting, headline-grabbing jump (or dive, or fall, or plummet …) for the Red Bull Stratos project, NPR’s All Things Considered ran a piece on the brand. Check out the audio and full transcript here, but let me offer my favorite bits from the interview that Melissa Block did with Bloomberg Businessweek reporter Duff McDonald:

MCDONALD: [Mateschitz] insists that this is a drink that, quote, “improves performance,” whatever that actually means. And in making that insistence, he put a premium price on it. A Red Bull is about two bucks a can, you know, which is four or five times what you pay for a Coca Cola in a grocery store. And I asked him, I said, what gave you the brass to put a premium price on it out of the gate?

And he looked back at me all deadpan and he said, how would people know it was a premium product if it didn’t have a premium price? …

BLOCK: You know, this company has managed to be extremely successful marketing a product that — I say this on a basis of one test case today as I prepared for this interview — is pretty awful. I say that with pure journalistic integrity. But a product that has some taste challenges, let’s say, to be polite. How does this happen?

MCDONALD: First of all, let me just say it’s an acquired taste. I love my diet Red Bull.

BLOCK: You do?

MCDONALD: Oh, I also love Listerine, though. And, you know, I think they’re not unrelated. I did ask [Mateschitz] that when I met him. I said, you could’ve made it taste better. And he just looked at me sort of with a querulous look and he’s like, Duff, it’s not about the taste, which is hilarious for someone who’s selling something that you open up a can and put in your mouth, but …

BLOCK: A little counterintuitive.

MCDONALD: Yeah, it’s counterintuitive, but it was consistent with this idea that what we’re doing here is improving your performance. And if that’s your goal, what should it matter to you what it tastes like.

With that disclaimer in place, here’s the video.

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