Space marketing – it’s not rocket science – engineers, keep away!

By Martin / / Airbus, Bigelow, Blue Origin, Boeing, CSA, ESA, JAXA, Lockheed Martin, NanoRacks, NASA, Orbital ATK, Planetary Resources, Roscosmos, Sierra Nevada Corp, Space Com, SpaceX, UKSA, ULA, Virgin Galactic, XCOR / No Comments

The Science and Art of Marketing

You wouldn’t rely on a logo designer to engineer your space-faring hardware, right? However when space organizations grow, essential marketing tasks are often dropped on the wrong person’s desk. Hundreds of man-hours of work and great achievements often result in somebody posting a single press release and just a couple of tweets – then hoping for the best.

Of course tweeting is the easy bit anyone can do, however using the right marketing tools and time-tested strategies can, and should, create the stir needed to generate a snowball effect that inspires space industry commentators, journalists and the general public to do lots of the promotional work for us.

It’s true though that digital marketing is both a science and an art. From crafting marketing messages, designing imagery and webpages, developing search strategies, split-testing advertising copy, engineering mailout functionality, launching promotional campaigns, analysing their effects and back round to the creative inspiration and artistic zeal needed to inspire others to share our message – or indeed, buy our product. Each requires a similar amount of experience and specialist know-how that our engineers use to get the best results.

Bill Hicks -brand marketingGone are the days when businesses believed that “if your product is good enough, it will sell itself”, but you don’t have to wheel Shatner out, dangle Branson from a rope or require a goodbye kiss from Musk for every venture your business takes into the final frontier – though clearly, it can help.

Through all the smoke, the late, great, Bill Hicks once claimed that all advertisers and marketers should kill themselves – and we understood exactly what he meant of course, but despite his finely-tuned branding and message, Bill failed to help lots of his causes as much as he had hoped. Causes, that could still do with his support today.

Venturing into space allows humanity to re-kindle our instinct to explore, to reclaim lost freedoms, to help power the information revolution, study our effects on the environment, enable developing nations to free themselves from poverty, make great things and go to strange places. Space allows us to look at the bigger picture. Some things are just good, and they need to be pushed… for the benefit of all mankind. And not because its the easy thing – but because, well, its there.

Space – the ideal place for free trade

Space has come a long way. Since the 50s and 60s when we chose to do those difficult things of putting our money where our mouths were supposed to be. The United States took the lead in footing the bill that would produce benefits we could all enjoy and be inspired by. Since then successive administrations have focused on different aspects and benefits of space exploration. From financial prosperity to to national security, they were razing capitals (to the ground) to developing ray guns that would end all wars. Money, or was it power, could take you anywhere.

Space exploration reminds us to be humble, to understand each other and ourselves Click To Tweet

Today, as then, the stakes are high. From recent reliance on enemies (now known as competitors) for a safe ride home to working with potentially crazed leaders capable of exploding like a bull in a china shop. We use space exploration for so much. From showing the rest of the world that we are a force to be reckoned with, to remind ourselves to be humble and to help us understand each other and ourselves.

Listen, currently in space all is not quiet. The rules have changed again. We can no longer claim everything above our heads, but if you can touch it, you own it. Globalisation is here, everywhere, and may soon be shown to be thinking too small. There’s diamonds in those moons, so we already know that the next gold rush is waiting to be had by our children. Just think about that.

Down on the ground though…money, business, commerce, sales, marketing…they are still the real thing. No longer just accessible to governments, space is now a commodity individuals can buy into. Will a new breed of madmen advertisers get away with blocking out the sky? Will events on the horizon allow the new uber-rich investors to continue ploughing money into a hole, that not even profit can escape from?

The old guard now watches on as super eager Musk stumbles excitedly through speeches and presentations, while Bezos is frantically keeping a grip on the controls, he is waiting, waiting until the time is right for another giant leap. The world is watching space again, be it led by a new cohort of heroes.

Selling the dream today are an array of well-mannered billionaires, singing space showmen, always smiling Brit astronauts and soon, pesky taikonauts. Sure, the military trained types still get first shot, but with just a whisker between them, we now get to make wagers on which of the Kelly twins’ heads would boil first. Seriously, space is at risk of becoming fun.

In space no one can hear you scream! In cyberspace no one can shut you up! #space #cyberspace Click To Tweet

Marketing – a necessary evil or just evil

NASA Sucks or RocksMarketing, like commercial space exploration, is also in a state of great flux due to all the new opportunities and pitfalls that come with the digital age. The information revolution brings with it a new voice for the common man, ready with ideas, opinions, and enemies, of their own. The social web gives everybody a soapbox and those big guys who used to be the loudest, have to make sure their voices still get heard.

Before now, NASA and the other space agencies were usually the main targets for criticism, after all being a tax dollar eating government agency meant they were fair game. And sure Lockheed Martin and Boeing were always there in the firing line too, ready to take up arms against any flack or bad publicity that came their way. However, more recently the sights have since been set on this younger generation of new space businesses. And the public are there online, just watching, waiting – to help or hinder those space brands that fall in or out of favor.

Sure NASA will continue to survive criticism of the missgivings of their budget spend, the embarrassment of scrawled graffiti to the effect that they suck on decommissioned launch vehicles and of their red-tape clad logo. But the world will still be avidly watching the latest launches and missions regardless of the effects of their marketing or communication activities. How they play their hand over the coming years will depend not only on what they have hidden up their sleeves, but how the new private space service providers can out trump them.

Commercialisation and competition

money in commercial spaceWith cheaper launches and better safety records growing in the private sector, this new breed of commercial space pioneers are managing to elbow their way into government money deals. Taking lots of the burden on their own (shareholder’s) shoulders and risking entire years in the red. Those that do not rely on government money are exposed to strong market forces. And so, some of us in the commercial space sector must die. So it goes.

For many though, space is much closer to home. We all buy consumer products that thumb a lift on the stellar sensation and we tolerate cliche merchants that promise to “skyrocket” our profits. Even some of the engineers amongst us forgave the marketers at Redbull for claiming their guy jumped (23 miles) from space.

Ok, so some marketing is evil, or bad or just rubbish. As above so below. Maybe the market will decide the outcome of mankind’s journey into the cosmos. The rules of both commercial space exploitation and digital self promotion are yet to be defined. Though that’s the nature of the game, and, I guess, you have to play.

Enterprise – (boldly) going forward…

So, with the unknown future of commercial space exploration and the effects of it’s marketing in mind, this blog has been put together to provide a view on how space brands are keeping up with the marketing activities that will help them survive the cold, dark and often lonely environment we find ourselves in.

One thing is for sure though – Armstrong’s camera shy modesty was never going to create enough buzz to keep this show on the road. We likely didn’t realise it and most of us didn’t foot the bill, but people of all nations took part in marketing, promoting, even glamorising space exploration to the next generation.

These are the voyages of commercial space enterprise. As an early captain of the industry once said…We come in peace, would you like to buy a flag?

Captain Kirk - 1 dollar bill shatner

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