Space advertising and marketing has become a popular topic of conversation in recent years, given the recent advent of commercial space travel – as introduced by big-brand initiators such as Richard Branson, Elon Musk and Amazon founder Jeff Bezos.
The prospect of large-scale space travel is on the verge of commercial viability, and this has not gone unrecognised by large businesses. Over the past few years, big brands have been fighting for space (literally!) in a bid to capitalise on the human desire to travel extensively into the unknown.
Our curiosity knows no bounds, particularly when it comes to discovering new countries, continents and now – our potential to travel outside of Earth! Dubbed by British astronomer Chris Impey as the “explorer gene”, our drive to travel vast distances and investigate the unknown is deeply embedded in our makeup.
Today, ‘space tourism’ is not so far from our grasp. In addition, the Google Lunar X Prize is offering teams the chance to land a privately funded rover on the Moon, and with an incentive of winning $30 million to the successful team!
Marketers love making a big statement – the bigger the better. And, well, space is about as big (and vast) as it gets! It not only provides high-tech appeal, but it also shows consumers that your product stands out from and above the rest. There is something romantic, exciting and mysterious about using space as the backdrop for a product or service, and brands are looking to utilise this in their campaigns.
Brands have used space as a commercial tool for decades: back in 1985, Coca-Cola developed a can for astronauts to use during missions; in 2014, the Red Bull-sponsored video of a free fall undertaken by sky diver Felix Baumgartner drew global attention (with Kit Kat supporting the event by sending a chocolate bar into space); and even Confused.com has jumped on the wagon, sending its new robot mascot Brian to space in commemoration of the month Neil Armstrong died.
Hyundai tugged at our heartstrings with their ‘Message to Space’, in which stunt drivers in a fleet of sedans spell out a daughter’s message of love into a dry lakebed – at the same time as her astronaut father can see it in orbit from the International Space Station. The video received over 30 million views on YouTube, successfully tapping into the emotional yet explorative mind of the consumer.
The application of space advertising within an efficient economic model is far from reality, as Impey warned Marketing in August last year: “Beyond just tourism, it’s hard to say, but the astronomer’s nightmare is advertising in space – a huge neon sign visible over the whole of Earth, getting a message to 2 billion people and messing up the night sky.”
While the chance of a quick PR stunt in space may provide opportunities for companies to reach a wider audience, we are still light years away from seeing giant billboards in space, or the kind of omnipresent advertising seen in popular television series Futurama. In fact, there have only been a handful of companies that have managed to pull off successful marketing campaigns in space.
For now, these ideas remain somewhat dystopic, like the kind of thing you’d expect to see in science fiction novels or commercial satire. But watch this space!