Slinging the Red Bull: How to Find Stories Everywhere

Stories are everywhere. This can led me to the Cutty Sark, Fencetech 2015, and a TV show I hadn't thought of in decades. I tried Red Bull once, and I was so surprised that it wasn’t Hawaiian Punch red that I can’t remember what it tasted like. I haven’t tried it since primarily because Red Bull has never asked me to.

Frankly, they have no use for a 54-year-old male with 2.4 children (my daughters are quite tall). Red Bull targets kids who want to jump out of balloons that are bumping against earth’s celestial ceiling. I, on the other hand, didn’t want to jump out of bed this morning.

My first exposure to Red Bull was through their James Thurber-esque cartoon commercials that featured various scenarios where some guy “gets his wings.” And even though I wasn’t their target market, I did connect with those TV ads in a nostalgic way.

They reminded me a TV show I use to watch when I was a kid, “My World and Welcome to It,” which was based on the life of the cartoonist James Thurber. That show was cancelled 34 years ago. The star of the show was born in 1923. James Thurber died in 1961 … of old age. None of us is Red Bull’s target demo.

Last week, Amsterdam Printing (“the leader in laser engraved promotional pens and personalized calendars”) posted a blog about “3 Brands Rocking Social Media,” with Red Bull being the first. In it, they made the insightful observation that, “the key to Red Bull’s social media success is the staggering amount of quality content it shares.”

Red Bull, they wrote, is an “immersive” brand because “it seamlessly immerses itself with other stories in order to tell its own” … not unlike what Amsterdam Printing did with that post … and as long as we’re being honest, not unlike what I‘m doing with this post.

Now, I need to say upfront that this wasn’t the point of my post at its inception. (See what I did there, Karlyn Boe?) I actually had planned to write about the Red Bull can fence-post cap that I found yesterday. I thought it would be a nice addition to my fence-post cap oeuvre. But having had only one unmemorable sip of Red Bull, I didn’t have a single story about it. So I did a little digging and found Amsterdam Printing’s informative post.

I bring all this up to show that there is always a story. Sometimes you just have to dig a little deeper. In the past few weeks, I’ve written about a bug, a one-armed tan-colored plastic Army man, and a fence-post cap. And I came up with stories because each of those treasures (eventually) triggered a memory.

Here’s the trick: Free association. Take the topic you want to write about and boil it down to one word or phrase (if you can tie it to a tangible object, all the better). Then find a quiet place away from any Internet access and start rummaging through your memory for incidents that involved that word, phrase, or object.

If you can’t churn up any of your own stories, Google your phrase and use someone else’s.

For example, say it was your job to entice people to attend Fencetech 2015, the trade show of the American Fence Association being held in Orlando in February. And say the theme of the show was “Charting a New Course” emblazoned over the silhouette of a three-masted schooner (which it is).

Not much to work with, right? You’d be surprised. Here’s what I’d lead with:

“Back in 1972 on a family vacation in London, we toured the dry-docked clipper ship Cutty Sark. The captain’s log was in a glass case opened to an entry made on April 3, 1881—exactly 79 years and one day before I was born. [True story.]

“On that day, two seamen were swept off the deck never to be found again. Their names were John Clifton and John Doyle!

“To this day, I wonder how differently things might have turned out if the Cutty Sark’s deck was equipped with a durable, lightweight fence. If you would like to see the kind of fences that might have saved the lives of those two young men, join us at Fencetech 2015 in Orlando, Florida!”

And don’t worry if you don’t have a similar story. You could always lead with a picture of a Red Bull can serving as a fence-post cap.