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10 Small Business Marketing Lessons Learned at the Red Bull Flugtag

September 8, 2010

Red Bull Flugtag Philadelphia 2010Ah, Labor Day weekend, the end of the summer.  My family and I had the unique opportunity of spending a beautiful Saturday on the  “other” Jersey shore -  the Camden, NJ waterfront.   Normally, we skip over TV commercials, but you could not live in Philly and miss the Flugtag ads.  Compelled by what promised to be a strange and side-splitting day of laughter, we went to view the Red bull Flugtag.  For those of you who are not familiar with the event, a quick history lesson, stolen directly form the Red bull Flugtag website:

The first Red Bull Flugtag took place in Vienna, Austria, in 1991. Since then, more than 35 Flugtags have been held around the world -- from Ireland to San Francisco -- attracting up to 300,000 spectators. The record for the farthest flight-to-date currently stands at 195 feet set in 2000 at Flugtag Austria. The U.S. record stands at 155 feet set in Nashville, Tennessee, in 2007.

Red Bull Flugtag - Philadelphia 2010 - shot 1Red Bull Flugtag challenges teams of everyday people to build homemade, human-powered flying machines and pilot them off a 30-foot high deck in hopes of achieving flight! Flugtag may mean, "flying day" in German, but all these crafts ultimately splash into the waters below. They are judged not only on their flight's distance, but creativity and showmanship as well.

Each team builds its craft around a theme, and before taking off, teams perform a brief skit. They then pilot their machines off the pier, and teams are judged on flight distance, the creativity of their craft and showmanship.

It was an extraordinary event and as always, while watching, my mind turned to marketing for my small business clients.  I learned several things that day that I will take forward:

    1. Planning – The amount of planning that went into each “plane” (I put this in quotes because few really flew) was remarkable.  Many of the teams sent their entire summers working on building these things of beauty.  A well-orchestrated marketing event takes time and teamwork.  Without planning we plan to fail.
    2. Creativity – There were “planes” shaped as the Empire State Building, the Bumble from Rudolf the Red Nosed Reindeer, and a Giant Flying Llama. You get the point; make sure that any of your marketing content is unique, not like the guy down the street.
    3. Know the rules – One team built an amazing “plane” that actually looked like to would fly, but they built it too tall and had to take an aerodynamic part completely off.  Make sure that you are following all of the rules of whichever tactic you choose.  For example, make sure that your database of names has actually asked to be on your mailing list before you send out your newsletter.
    4. Play to the hometown crowd – The teams that incorporated sports teams from Philly, movies from Philly (Rocky) or just the Founding Father’s got higher points from the judges than did the “planes that actually flew a longer distance  When writing your blogs, understand who you are trying to reach with them.  Know your ideal target market
    5. Find the wind under your wings, or just have wings - The teams that found the right wind current actually flew more than 10 feet.  The ones whose wings fell off, went nowhere. This falls under the category of when blogging, just do it.  When you do make sure that you use all of the social media tools out there to have your blog find wind under your wings.
    6. Re-adjust for conditions – The remnants of hurricane Earl reeked havoc on the “planes”.  To say it was a blustery day was an understatement.  Important parts of the planes were blowing off.  The successful teams quickly reassessed their design and were able to launch.  Make sure that you always track any marketing activity, that way you can make any necessary changes and try again.

The last four lessons are the most important

  1. When you fail make it epic – As parts were falling from the “planes”, skits crashed and burned, and none flew more than 43 feet, the crowd cheered.  They were impressed with the teams that no matter what happened they kept going.  There is no one perfect marketing tactic.  Take chances, try new things.  Some will be epic fails and others will succeed.
  2. Take it all in stride – To my amazement, one team of college students who had entered was being graded by their professor on their design.  The professor piloted the “plane” and as it was going down the runway it completely disassembled.  The professor and the whole team jumped into the Delaware River laughing.  Again, you will have set backs in you marketing plan.  Do not give up just because one tactic failed
  3. Be proud of your accomplishments – When interviewed after flight, with out fail, every team was beaming, proud that they had entered the event and ready to come back to do it next year.  Every month, look back on the things on your marketing calendar that you accomplished and be truly proud of what you achieved.
  4. Above all have fun – I think that was my biggest take away.  Don’t take it all so seriously.  Be inventive, do things that other dare not do!
Darling Jimenez
Written by Darling Jimenez

Darling Jimenez is a passionate graphic and web designer committed to delivering on time products that can generate leads and provide a friendly user experience. With more than 5 years of experience, she loves to stay on top of the latest design and marketing trends.

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