Earth, a mere 8,000 miles in diameter, is a drop in the bucket when compared to the diameter of the Milky Way, which is 8.0545e+17 miles—billions of stars contained within. The opportunities that will invariably come by making our species interplanetary are just as immense. With a commercial spaceflight industry valued at approximately $329 billion, companies and brands are eyeing space travel with supreme interest. To appreciate the implications of space exploration, let’s take a quick look at how we’ve arrived at this important moment in time.
Point A to B
Nearly 50 years ago, the entire world watched as Apollo 11 launched from Kennedy Space Center and traveled 338,900 miles, with Neil Armstrong leaving humanity’s footprint on the Moon. Forty years ago, Voyager 1 and 2 launched for deep space, carrying the infamous Golden Records; and only a few years ago, Voyager 1 finally breached our solar system—now more than 13 billion miles away with cruise control set at 33,000mph. It won’t even come close to another star for another 40,000 years. 20 years ago, Pathfinder completed the 34-million-mile trip to Mars, deploying rovers that still roam the Martian soil. And today, there are more private space flights planned than ever before. Space travel is nearing its mainstream moment; and as such, other industries are joining the ride.
At 50,000feet, we approach everything from a vantage point that might resemble the one that astronauts and space travelers enjoy. It’s this holistic perspective—being able to see all the parts to the whole, simultaneously detail driven and big picture—that helps inform our imaginative solutions for the Earth’s most respected brands.
This fascination of what lies beyond is driving considerable activity around what’s proving to be the next graspable feat: colonizing Mars. Believe it or not, the first manned mission could happen in less than 10 years, and with it, will come tremendous opportunities for brands and advertisers. While brand marketing and space travel seem light years apart, it is inevitable for private space companies aiming to cut exorbitant costs to turn to advertising and other partnerships to turn a profit.
Opportunity 1: Launches
If you’ve read or watched Elon Musk’s plan to colonize Mars, you know that it’s physically impossible to launch a single spaceship from Earth with both people and supplies for the entire trip. Instead, there will be multiple launches to send things like fuel, building and living materials and water into space. There will be launches to send materials ahead of the crew to Mars to their landing zone. And, there will be resupply launches once the crew arrives. There may even be launches to send the needed materials to build a lunar base for astronaut training prior to a Mars landing.
Launch events are a great way for space companies to profit from advertising because everyone loves to be part of a historic moment. It’s apparent from the 815K subscribers to SpaceX’s YouTube channel and its videos’ millions of views. Aside from digital space on their webcast pages and mid-roll videos during the livestream of launches as well as webcast sponsorship opportunities, they can sell space on the exterior of spaceships and on landing pads. The opportunities are endless, taking omni-channel to a whole new level.
Opportunity 2: #ads
You’ve seen them everywhere, touting their relevance in fashion, tech, social causes and comedy. Even if popular influencers aren’t selected to be the first astronauts for a manned mission, there will undoubtedly be brands approaching the astronauts aboard to push new, space-age products or services or to leverage their social-media follower base for brand visibility. Given the low number of people who will be on the first mission and the Super Bowl-like coverage, it’s likely that companies won’t be modest with their offers to influencers.
Opportunity 3: 1st on Mars
Budweiser has expressed interest in brewing beer on Mars and isn’t the only company who would like a presence on the Red Planet. The first taco, the first hamburger, the first fried-chicken sandwich, the first movie theater—brands are joining the race to be first. Companies could subsidize a launch with a private space company to get the needed materials to Mars. Otherwise, there will be equipment sent with the first manned crew. These initiatives will be highly scrutinized since the crew on Mars will need the basic survival elements, and each pound that is taken up with another company's goods detracts that of the survival goods that could be transported to the crew on the ground. This means the lucky few who do get that precious cargo space will be willing to pay a premium.
View from Here
Otherworldly opportunities are in the near future, so we encourage marketing voyageurs to keep an open mind about creative ways to take your brands to new heights.
As with any sporting event or other cultural phenomenon that involves fans, consider the opportunities that exist for emergent communities of fanboys and fangirls of celebrity astronauts, space brands and the like. Some placement opportunities could last for the duration of the flight, during which there could be hundreds of posts—basically, you’d have captive audiences in both brand loyal space travelers and Earthbound consumers. It could mean 24/7 reality TV, broadcast from space.
Use the context of space to think about the emerging needs of consumers. We’ve seen both brands and NASA develop products specifically for testing or for actual use in space—Tang, Teflon and Dippin’ Dots among them, and some more practical than others. What do you offer, and how can you make it better by keeping a longer-tail innovation plan in mind?
Capitalize on the fascination with space by developing content that speaks to possibility and wonder. Like many pioneers and explorers, we’ve proven countless impossibilities possible. It’s remarkable to think that most everything starts with a simple question or idea: asking something as simple as “why not” can lead to monumental innovation. Creativity remains our means to get outside the box, outside our own comfort zone and even outside our galaxy.
“Imagination will often carry us to worlds that never were. But without it we go nowhere.”
- Carl Sagan