A couple of years ago Red Bull put a man in space.
Felix Baumgartner, covered in private-company branding, skydived from the stratosphere. It was epic and historical and it continues to amaze.
It was a marketing department's wet dream. 8 million people (and I) watched it live. Red Bull continue to release YouTube videos of the event with 4 or 5 million views each time. Footage will appear in one of this year's Superbowl commercial.
The value of the event to Red Bull isn't measurable. Some say it was worth tens of millions of dollars, others say hundreds of millions. It will continue to be shared and watched and, presumably, more people will drink that little syrupy energy drink because of it. Felix's doctor undoubtedly told him to stay away from it, but someone out there is obviously buying those 4 billion cans of Red Bulls each year.
So what did it cost? There's no official word, but the rumour is $30 million.
The question very few people are asking is...Was it worth it? Possibly, yes.
So why didn't a charity do it?
Wait...what? A charity waste $30 million on advertising and PR...and fundraising? $30 million that could have been given to the homeless, used to feed starving children or put towards baby pandas?
Well if it increased income then why not? The larger charities of the world could have afforded it and I'm sure we could find a loose connection in the same way Red Bull did...I'm thinking 'The Plumpy'nut Space Dive'.
OK, back to Earth...
Of course a charity would never do it because they would have been crucified. Imagine. How much of my donation was wasted on that? How many kids could we have fed instead? How much did Felix get paid?
It's an "X-treme" example but fundraisers and charity marketing faces the same double standard every day. "Why are you wasting money on marketing and fundraising?" Meanwhile we accept that private companies know what they're doing.
Do we want to pose the same questions to companies like Red Bull? After all, they're still funded by us.
Was the campaign a waste of money? (Everyone says no, but a 1.6:1 ROI isn't that great)
How much do their top execs get paid? (The founders appeared on Forbes' rich list)
What percentage of the cost of my can goes on advertising and wages? (Your weekly shop could have been cheaper)
And...perhaps most importantly...who is swallowing this crap?
Personally I'd rather see the world give their attention and support to an organisation whose vision is a world without poverty, rather than a company whose vision is to "maintain leadership in energy drinks".